We examine roles of signaling by secreted ligands of the TGF-beta family during Drosophila oogenesis. One family member, the DPP ligand encoded by the decapentaplegic (dpp) gene, is required for patterning of anterior eggshell structures. This requirement presumably reflects the expression pattern of dpp in an anterior subset of somatic follicle cells: the centripetally migrating and the nurse cell-associated follicle cells. Similar requirements are also revealed by mutations in the saxophone (sax)-encoded receptor, consistent with the idea that DPP signaling is, at least in part, mediated by the SAX receptor. A loss of germline sax function results in a block in oogenesis associated with egg chamber degeneration and a failure of the transfer of nurse cell contents to the oocyte, indicating that TGF-beta signaling is required for these events. Some phenotypes of sax mutations during oogenesis suggest that SAX responds to at least one other TGF-beta ligand as well in the posterior follicle cells.

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