Spermatid Cyst Polarization in Drosophila Depends upon apkc and the CPEB Family Translational Regulator orb2

Shuwa Xu, Sanjay Tyagi, Paul Schedl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Mature Drosophila sperm are highly polarized cells-on one side is a nearly 2 mm long flagellar tail that comprises most of the cell, while on the other is the sperm head, which carries the gamete's genetic information. The polarization of the sperm cells commences after meiosis is complete and the 64-cell spermatid cyst begins the process of differentiation. The spermatid nuclei cluster to one side of the cyst, while the flagellar axonemes grows from the other. The elongating spermatid bundles are also polarized with respect to the main axis of the testis; the sperm heads are always oriented basally, while the growing tails extend apically. This orientation within the testes is important for transferring the mature sperm into the seminal vesicles. We show here that orienting cyst polarization with respect to the main axis of the testis depends upon atypical Protein Kinase C (aPKC), a factor implicated in polarity decisions in many different biological contexts. When apkc activity is compromised in the male germline, the direction of cyst polarization within this organ is randomized. Significantly, the mechanisms used to spatially restrict apkc activity to the apical side of the spermatid cyst are different from the canonical cross-regulatory interactions between this kinase and other cell polarity proteins that normally orchestrate polarization. We show that the asymmetric accumulation of aPKC protein in the cyst depends on an mRNA localization pathway that is regulated by the Drosophila CPEB protein Orb2. orb2 is required to properly localize and activate the translation of apkc mRNAs in polarizing spermatid cysts. We also show that orb2 functions not only in orienting cyst polarization with respect to the apical-basal axis of the testis, but also in the process of polarization itself. One of the orb2 targets in this process is its own mRNA. Moreover, the proper execution of this orb2 autoregulatory pathway depends upon apkc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1004380
JournalPLoS genetics
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Genetics
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cancer Research


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