Deciphering developmental cell death using Drosophila as a model

S Kumar

Centre for Cancer Biology, University of South Australia, Adelaide, SA 5000

For over a century the little vinegar fly, Drosophila melanogaster, has played a major role in scientific discovery by serving as a model for genetic investigations in animal development. Short life cycle, genetic amenability, ready access to reagents and genetically altered fly lines, and a well connected and (mostly) collaborative community make Drosophila a system of choice for the study of animal development, complex biological pathways and genetic diseases. In addition, around 60% of the genes affected in various human diseases have counterparts in Drosophila. This makes flies a useful tool for biomedical research. Alongside our studies in mammalian cells and mouse models, we have used Drosophila for the discovery of several components of the cell death machinery and for characterizing the apoptotic machinery to understand how it is activated and regulated to precisely delete obsolete cells and tissues during development. The use of Drosophila has also allowed us to discover a non-apoptotic form of cell death that is independent of caspase activity/activation. In this lecture I will summarize our studies which are uncovering the intricacies and modalities of cell death using fly as a model.