A study of the female germ line in mosaics of Drosophila

Trudi Schüpbach, Eric Wieschaus, Rolf Nöthiger

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28 Scopus citations


Our report presents an analysis of the development and dynamics of the female germ line in Drosophila. Females were produced that were mosaic either for attached-X chromosomes {Mathematical expression} and a ring-X (triplo-X-diplo-X), or for {Mathematical expression} and a marked Y-chromosome {Mathematical expression}. The germ-line and genitalia of these females were analysed by direct microscopic observation or by examination of the progeny. Eggs derived from triplo-X germ cells were hardly capable of supporting development, with most of the zygotes dying during embryonic development. The analysis of the germ line was therefore carried out mainly by direct observation of histochemically stained developing oocytes in the ovaries of mosaic females. The total germ cell population of both ovaries of a female was mosaic in 22-29% of the tested animals. From this frequency of mosaicism we estimated the number of functional primordial germ cells to be betwen 3 and 6 cells at the blastoderm stage. At this stage the cell lineages for the left and right ovary are not yet separated. The germ cell population of individual ovarioles was frequently mosaic which shows that the few stem cells in an ovariole are recruited as a group and are not clonal descendants of a single ancestor cell per ovariole. An analysis of the sequential pattern of oocyte-nurse cell cysts in mosaic ovarioles revealed that neighbouring cysts tend to be of the same genotype. This suggests that the stem cells of the adult ovaries preferentially divide in bursts, one of them giving rise to two, three and sometimes even more cystocytes in a row. In addition, the foci for lethality and sterility of the triplo-X condition were determined. Non-mosaic triplo-X females (metafemales) are hardly viable and invariably sterile. Using our mosaics, the focus for lethality could be mapped to a region very near the ventral prothoracic discs. The focus for sterility resides in the genitalia, since flies with triplo-X genitalia never laid any eggs, regardless of the genotype of their ovaries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-56
Number of pages16
JournalWilhelm Roux's Archives of Developmental Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1978

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental Biology


  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Female germ line
  • Metafemale
  • Mosaics
  • Stem cell divisions
  • Sterility


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