Mutants for Drosophila isocitrate dehydrogenase 3b are defective in mitochondrial function and larval cell death

Dianne M. Duncan, Paula Kiefel, Ian Duncan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The death of larval salivary gland cells during metamorphosis in Drosophila melanogaster has been a key system for studying steroid controlled programmed cell death. This death is induced by a pulse of the steroid hormone ecdysone that takes place at the end of the prepupal period. For many years, it has been thought that the ecdysone direct response gene Eip93F (E93) plays a critical role in initiating salivary gland cell death. This conclusion was based largely on the finding that the three "type" alleles of E93 cause a near-complete block in salivary gland cell death. Here, we show that these three mutations are in fact allelic to Idh3b, a nearby gene that encodes the β subunit of isocitrate dehydrogenase 3, a mitochondrial enzyme of the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle. The strongest of the Idh3b alleles appears to cause a nearcomplete block in oxidative phosphorylation, as mitochondria are depolarized in mutant larvae, and development arrests early during cleavage in embryos from homozygous-mutant germline mothers. Idh3b-mutant larval salivary gland cells fail to undergo mitochondrial fragmentation, which normally precedes the death of these cells, and do not initiate autophagy, an early step in the cell death program. These observations suggest a close relationship between the TCA cycle and the initiation of larval cell death. In normal development, tagged Idh3b is released from salivary gland mitochondria during their fragmentation, suggesting that Idh3b may be an apoptogenic factor that functions much like released cytochrome c in mammalian cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)789-799
Number of pages11
JournalG3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2017


  • Apoptosis
  • Autophagy
  • E93
  • Idh3b
  • Isocitrate dehydrogenase
  • Mitochondria


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