We identified a Drosophila Apaf-1/CED-4 homolog gene, dapaf-1. Alternative splicing results in two dapaf-1 mRNA species, which encode distinct forms of caspase activator, Dapaf-1L (Apaf-1 type) and Dapaf-1S (CED-4 type). Distinct caspases were activated by these Dapaf-1 isoforms. Loss of Dapaf-1 function resulted in defective cytochrome c-dependent caspase activities and reduced apoptosis in embryo and in larval brain. Dapaf-1 activities were also involved in cell death induced by ectopic expression of reaper in the compound eye. These data suggest that Dapaf-1/cytochrome c-dependent cell death-inducing machinery is present in Drosophila, and the requirement of Dapaf-1/Apaf-1 in neural cell death is conserved through evolution.
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