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Open Access Research article

A genetic screen for modifiers of Drosophila caspase Dcp-1 reveals caspase involvement in autophagy and novel caspase-related genes

Young-Il Kim13, Taewoo Ryu1, Judong Lee1, Young-Shin Heo1, Joohong Ahnn2, Seung-Jae Lee3 and OokJoon Yoo1*

Author affiliations

1 Bio Medical Research Center, Department of Biological Science, KAIST, 373-1, 305-701, Daejeon, Korea

2 Department of Life Science, College of Natural Science, Hanyang University, 133-791, Seoul, Korea

3 Division of Molecular and Life Sciences, School of Interdisciplinary Bioscience and Bioengineering, World Class University Division of IT Convergence Engineering, Pohang University of Science and Technology, 790-784, Pohang, Korea

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Citation and License

BMC Cell Biology 2010, 11:9  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-11-9

Published: 25 January 2010

Abstract

Background

Caspases are cysteine proteases with essential functions in the apoptotic pathway; their proteolytic activity toward various substrates is associated with the morphological changes of cells. Recent reports have described non-apoptotic functions of caspases, including autophagy. In this report, we searched for novel modifiers of the phenotype of Dcp-1 gain-of-function (GF) animals by screening promoter element- inserted Drosophila melanogaster lines (EP lines).

Results

We screened ~15,000 EP lines and identified 72 Dcp-1-interacting genes that were classified into 10 groups based on their functions and pathways: 4 apoptosis signaling genes, 10 autophagy genes, 5 insulin/IGF and TOR signaling pathway genes, 6 MAP kinase and JNK signaling pathway genes, 4 ecdysone signaling genes, 6 ubiquitination genes, 11 various developmental signaling genes, 12 transcription factors, 3 translation factors, and 11 other unclassified genes including 5 functionally undefined genes. Among them, insulin/IGF and TOR signaling pathway, MAP kinase and JNK signaling pathway, and ecdysone signaling are known to be involved in autophagy. Together with the identification of autophagy genes, the results of our screen suggest that autophagy counteracts Dcp-1-induced apoptosis. Consistent with this idea, we show that expression of eGFP-Atg5 rescued the eye phenotype caused by Dcp-1 GF. Paradoxically, we found that over-expression of full-length Dcp-1 induced autophagy, as Atg8b-GFP, an indicator of autophagy, was increased in the eye imaginal discs and in the S2 cell line. Taken together, these data suggest that autophagy suppresses Dcp-1-mediated apoptotic cell death, whereas Dcp-1 positively regulates autophagy, possibly through feedback regulation.

Conclusions

We identified a number of Dcp-1 modifiers that genetically interact with Dcp-1-induced cell death. Our results showing that Dcp-1 and autophagy-related genes influence each other will aid future investigations of the complicated relationships between apoptosis and autophagy.