The Drosophila prage Gene, Required for Maternal Transcript Destabilization in Embryos, Encodes a Predicted RNA Exonuclease


Jun Cui, Yun Wei Lai, Caroline V. Sartain, Rebecca M. Zuckerman, Mariana F. Wolfner




Egg activation, the transition of mature oocytes into developing embryos, is critical for the initiation of embryogenesis. This process is characterized by resumption of meiosis, changes in the egg’s coverings and by alterations in the transcriptome and proteome of the egg; all of these occur in the absence of new transcription. Activation of the egg is prompted by ionic changes in the cytoplasm (usually a rise in cytosolic calcium levels) that are triggered by fertilization in some animals and by mechanosensitive cues in others. The egg’s transcriptome is dramatically altered during the process, including by the removal of many maternal mRNAs that are not needed for embryogenesis. However, the mechanisms and regulators of this selective RNA degradation are not yet fully known. Forward genetic approaches in Drosophila have identified maternal-effect genes whose mutations prevent the transcriptome changes. One of these genes, prage (prg), was identified by Tadros et al. in a screen for mutants that fail to destabilize maternal transcripts. We identified the molecular nature of the prg gene through a combination of deficiency mapping, complementation analysis, and DNA sequencing of both extant prg mutant alleles. We find that prg encodes a ubiquitously expressed predicted exonuclease, consistent with its role in maternal mRNA destabilization during egg activation.



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