Genetic control of Programmed Cell Death in Drosophila Programmed cell death (apoptosis) is a physiological process of cell death that is critical for normal development and tissue homeostasis. Defects in the regulation of cell death mechanisms contribute to the pathogenesis of multiple diseases including those associated with reduced rates of cell death (cancer, autoimmunity) or with excessive cell death (neurodegeneration, stroke, myocardial infarction). The overall objective of our research is to gain a comprehensive understanding of the biological principles that underlie the regulation of cell death in the context of a multi-cellular organism, to identify and characterize the genes involved in this process, and to develop methods to manipulate them. Knowledge obtained in these studies will provide new insights into diseases that are associated with altered rates of apoptosis. We are using the genetic model organism Drosophila melanogaster in these studies. During Drosophila development many cells die by apoptosis. As in vertebrates, this cell death is not genetically predetermined in a lineage-restricted manner, but is dependent on environmental circumstances. Thus, Drosophila shares this developmental plasticity with vertebrates. Therefore, molecular genetic studies in Drosophila promise considerable potential for advancing our understanding of the basic control mechanisms involved in the regulation of apoptosis in vertebrates including humans. In the previous funding period we have performed genetic screens aimed at identifying genes involved in the control of programmed cell death. We have identified approximately 30 genes which directly or indirectly regulate cell death. It is the overall goal to characterize these genes phenotypically and molecularly, and to reveal their function for the control of programmed cell death. Finally, we wish to extend our screening efforts to the X chromosome which contains about 20% of the Drosophila genes. The characterization of these genes may have significant implications for the understanding of human diseases, and may help developing drugs and therapies to treat these diseases.

Public Health Relevance

This project investigates the genes and mechanisms that control Programmed Cell Death or Apoptosis. We have identified ~ 30 genes involved in the control of Programmed Cell Death which we wish to characterize. Understanding the mechanisms of this genes will lead to new therapeutic interventions for cancer, and may also be relevant for treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Research Project (R01)
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Development - 1 Study Section (DEV1)
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Maas, Stefan
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University of Massachusetts Medical School Worcester
Schools of Medicine
United States
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Pérez, Ernesto; Bergmann, Andreas (2017) Intercellular cannibalism fuels tumor growth. Cell Death Differ 24:759-760
Yenigun, Vildan Betul; Sirito, Mario; Amcheslavky, Alla et al. (2017) (CCUG)n RNA toxicity in a Drosophila model of myotonic dystrophy type 2 (DM2) activates apoptosis. Dis Model Mech 10:993-1003
Kamber Kaya, Hatem Elif; Ditzel, Mark; Meier, Pascal et al. (2017) An inhibitory mono-ubiquitylation of the Drosophila initiator caspase Dronc functions in both apoptotic and non-apoptotic pathways. PLoS Genet 13:e1006438
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Lee, T V; Kamber Kaya, H E; Simin, R et al. (2016) The initiator caspase Dronc is subject of enhanced autophagy upon proteasome impairment in Drosophila. Cell Death Differ 23:1555-64
Orme, Mariam H; Liccardi, Gianmaria; Moderau, Nina et al. (2016) The unconventional myosin CRINKLED and its mammalian orthologue MYO7A regulate caspases in their signalling roles. Nat Commun 7:10972
Fogarty, Caitlin E; Diwanji, Neha; Lindblad, Jillian L et al. (2016) Extracellular Reactive Oxygen Species Drive Apoptosis-Induced Proliferation via Drosophila Macrophages. Curr Biol 26:575-84
Fogarty, Caitlin E; Bergmann, Andreas (2015) The Sound of Silence: Signaling by Apoptotic Cells. Curr Top Dev Biol 114:241-65
Pérez, E; Das, G; Bergmann, A et al. (2015) Autophagy regulates tissue overgrowth in a context-dependent manner. Oncogene 34:3369-76
Fogarty, Caitlin E; Bergmann, Andreas (2014) Detecting caspase activity in Drosophila larval imaginal discs. Methods Mol Biol 1133:109-17

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