Mutations at the pebble locus of Drosophila melanogaster result in embryonic lethality. Examination of homozygous mutant embryos at the end of embryogenesis revealed the presence of fewer and larger cells which contained enlarged nuclei. Characterization of the embryonic cell cycles using DAPI, propidium iodide, anti-tubulin and anti-spectrin staining showed that the first thirteen rapid syncytial nuclear divisions proceeded normally in pebble mutant embryos. Following cellularization, the postblastoderm nuclear divisions occurred (mitoses 14, 15 and 16), but cytokinesis was never observed. Multinucleate cells and duplicate mitotic figures were seen within single cells at the time of the cycle 15 mitoses. We conclude that zygotic expression of the pebble gene is required for cytokinesis following cellularization during Drosophila embryogenesis. We postulate that developmental regulation of zygotic transcription of the pebble gene is a consequence of the transition from syncytial to cellular mitoses during cycle 14 of embryogenesis.

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