Int. J. Dev. Biol. 38: 565 - 590 (1994)
© UPV/EHU Press

Tumor suppressor and overgrowth suppressor genes of Drosophila melanogaster: developmental aspects.

E Gateff

Institut für Genetik, Johannes Gutenberg Universität, Mainz, Germany.

ABSTRACT In Drosophila about 27 developmental genes have been identified which suppress tumorous growth and about as many genes are known to suppress overgrowth. Recessive lethal mutations in tumor suppressor genes block in one step the differentiation of specific target cells, leaving unaffected their capacity to divide in an autonomous, malignant and lethal fashion. The structural analysis of eight tumor suppressor genes predicts putative functions in differentiation events, such as cell-cell communication, protein transport and protein synthesis, signal transduction, sex determination splicing and cytokinesis. Their predicted products function as effectors of the differentiated state being vital components of cell junctions, the cytoskeleton, the protein synthetic apparatus, the splicing machinery and signal transduction. In contrast to the tumor suppressor genes, which are instrumental in the establishment and maintenance of the differentiated state, overgrowth suppressor genes seem to control cell-specific division rates while leaving unaffected the capacity of the cells to differentiate. The Drosophila tumor suppressor and overgrowth suppressor genes show clearly the mutual exclusion of the genetic programs controlling cell division and cell differentiation. Some of the genes exhibit homologies to mammalian genes. Their functional homology, however, is still an open question.