We have determined that nurse cells are cleared from the Drosophila egg chamber by apoptosis. DNA fragmentation begins in nurse cells at stage 12, following the completion of cytoplasm transfer from the nurse cells to the oocyte. During stage 13, nurse cells increasingly contain highly fragmented DNA and disappear from the egg chamber concomitantly with the formation of apoptotic vesicles containing highly fragmented nuclear material. In dumpless mutant egg chambers that fail to complete cytoplasm transport from the nurse cells, DNA fragmentation is markedly delayed and begins during stage 13, when the majority of cytoplasm is lost from the nurse cells. These data suggest the presence of cytoplasmic factors in nurse cells that inhibit the initiation of DNA fragmentation. In addition, we have examined the ovarian expression patterns of regulatory genes implicated in Drosophila apoptosis. The positive regulators, reaper (rpr), head involution defective (hid) and grim, as well as the negative regulators, DIAP1 and DIAP2, are transcribed during oogenesis. However, germline clones homozygous for the deficiency Df(3)H99, which deletes rpr, hid and grim, undergo oogenesis in a manner morphologically indistinguishable from wild type, indicating that genes within this region are not necessary for apoptosis in nurse cells.

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