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Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
In Drosophila melanogaster, mutations in the gene drop-dead (drd) result in early adult lethality, with flies dying within 2 weeks of eclosion. Additional phenotypes include neurodegeneration, tracheal defects, starvation, reduced body mass, and female sterility. The cause of early lethality and the function of the drd protein remain unknown. In the current study, the temporal profiles of drd expression required for adult survival and body mass regulation were investigated. Knockdown of drd expression by UAS-RNAi transgenes and rescue of drd expression on a drd mutant background by a UAS-drd transgene were controlled with the Heat Shock Protein 70 (Hsp70)-Gal4 driver. Flies were heat-shocked at different stages of their life cycle, and the survival and body mass of the resulting adult flies were assayed. Surprisingly, the adult lethal phenotype did not depend upon drd expression in the adult. Rather, expression of drd during the second half of metamorphosis was both necessary and sufficient to prevent rapid adult mortality. In contrast, the attainment of normal adult body mass required a different temporal pattern of drd expression. In this case, manipulation of drd expression solely during larval development or metamorphosis had no effect on body mass, while knockdown or rescue of drd expression during all of pre-adult (embryonic, larval, and pupal) development did significantly alter body mass. Together, these results indicate that the adult-lethal gene drd is required only during development. Furthermore, the mutant phenotypes of body mass and lifespan are separable phenotypes arising from an absence of drd expression at different developmental stages.