Intersex (ix) mutations of Drosophila melanogaster cause nonrandom cell death in genital disc and can induce tumours in genitals in response to decapentaplegic (dppdisk) mutations
In Drosophila melanogaster, the intersex (ix) is a terminally positioned gene in somatic sex determination hierarchy and function with the female specific product of double sex (DSXF) to implement female sexual differentiation. The null phenotype of ix is to transform diplo-X individuals into intersexes while leaving haplo-X animals unaffected. This study on the effect of different intersex mutations on genital disc development provides the following major results: (i) similar range of a characteristic array of morphological structures (from almost double sex terminalia to extreme reduction of terminal appendages) was displayed by the terminalia of XX ix1/ix1, XX ix2/ix2 and XX ix5/ix5 individuals; (ii) an increased number of apoptotic cells were found to occur in a localized manner in mature third instar larval genital discs of ix individuals; (iii) ix mutations can induce high frequency of neoplastic tumours in genitals in the presence of decapentaplegic (dppdisk) mutations; and (iv) heteroallelic combinations of dppdisk mutations can also induce tumours in intersex genitals with variable expressivity. On the basis of these findings, we suggest that: (i) loss of function of ix causes massive cell death in both male and female genital primordia of genital discs, resulting phenotype mimicking in male and female characteristics in genitals; and (ii) at the discs, the apoptotic cells persist as ‘undead’ cells that can induce oncogenic transformation in the neighbouring disc cells when dpp signalling is blocked or reduced by dppdisk mutations.
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