The cryptocephal gene (ATF4) encodes multiple basic-leucine zipper proteins controlling molting and metamorphosis in Drosophila

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The cryptocephal (crc) mutation causes pleiotropic defects in ecdysone-regulated events during Drosophila molting and metamorphosis. Here we report that crc encodes a Drosophila homolog of vertebrate ATF4, a member of the CREB/ATF family of basic-leucine zipper (bZIP) transcription factors. We identified three putative protein isoforms. CRC-A and CRC-B contain the bZIP domain, and CRC-D is a C-terminally truncated form. We have generated seven new crc alleles. Consistent with the molecular diversity of crc, these alleles show that crc is a complex genetic locus with two overlapping lethal complementation groups. Alleles representing both groups were rescued by a cDNA encoding CRC-B. One lethal group (crc1, crc(R6), and crc(Rev8) consists of strong hypomorphic or null alleles that are associated with mutations of both CRC-A and CRC-B. These mutants display defects associated with larval molting and pupariation. In addition, they fail to evert the head and fail to elongate the imaginal discs during pupation, and they display variable defects in the subsequent differentiation of the adult abdomen. The other group (crc(R1), crc(R2), crc(E85), crc(E98), and crc929) is associated with disruptions of CRC-A and CRC-D; except for a failure to properly elongate the leg discs, these mutants initiate metamorphosis normally. Subsequently, they display a novel metamorphic phenotype, involving collapse of the head and abdomen toward the thorax. The crc gene is expressed throughout development and in many tissues. In third instar larvae, crc expression is high in targets of ecdysone signaling, such as the leg and wing imaginal discs, and in the ring gland, the source of ecdysone. Together, these findings implicate CREB/ATF proteins in essential functions during molting and metamorphosis. In addition, the similarities between the mutant phenotypes of crc and the ecdysone-responsive genes indicate that these genes are likely to be involved in common signaling pathways.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1711-1723
Number of pages13
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2000


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