The torpedo (DER) receptor tyrosine kinase is required at multiple times during Drosophila embryogenesis

Robert Clifford, Trudi Schüpbach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


The torpedo (DER) gene of Drosophila, which encodes a receptor tyrosine kinase of the EGF receptor subfamily, is essential for oogenesis, embryogenesis and imaginai dise development. To gain insight into the nature of the signals transduced by the torpedo product, we have characterized the gene's loss-of-function phenotype in the embryo. Through the induction of germline clones, we provide a genetic demonstration that maternal torpedo product does not contribute to zygotic development. Thus, the embryonic lethal phenotypes examined accurately reflect the consequences of eliminating all gene activity from the zygote. Temperature-shift experiments with the conditional allele topIF26 show that torpedo is required at two distinct times during embryonic development: the gene is first needed for germband retraction and for the production of anterior, posterior and ventral cuticle, then later for the secretion of ventral denticles. Since denticle formation can be severely disrupted in topIF26 animals without affecting cuticle production, the early and late requirements for torpedo appear to be functionally unrelated. torpedo, therefore, is required at multiple times in the development of the ventral epidermis, and may transduce qualitatively different signals. Since the early requirement for torpedo correlates with the first visible defect in embryonic development, increased cell death in the amnioserosa, cephalic ectoderm and ventral epidermis, the abnormalities in cuticle production and germband shortening seen in the mutant may be secondary consequences of a primary defect in cell viability. Given that the onset of cell death in torpedo embryos is not preceded by any obvious defects in mitogenesis, the establishment of cell identities or the maintenance of gene expression, it is possible that torpedo transduces a signal necessary for cell survival per se during early embryogenesis. During late embryogenesis, torpedo may mediate the reception of a second signal which regulates ventral epidermal cell differentiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)853-872
Number of pages20
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1992

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology


  • Cell death
  • Drosophila
  • Mitogenesis
  • Receptor tyrosine kinase
  • Torpedo


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