We identified Wengen, the first member of the Drosophila tumor necrosis factor receptor (TNFR) superfamily. Wengen is a type III membrane protein with conserved cysteine-rich residues (TNFR homology domain) in the extracellular domain, a hallmark of the TNFR superfamily. wengen mRNA is expressed at all stages of Drosophila development. The small-eye phenotype caused by an eye-specific overexpression of a Drosophila TNF superfamily ligand, Eiger, was dramatically suppressed by down-regulation of Wengen using RNA interference. In addition, Wengen and Eiger physically interacted with each other through their TNFR homology domain and TNF homology domain, respectively. These results suggest that Wengen can act as a component of a functional receptor for Eiger. Our identification of Wengen and further genetic analysis should provide increased understanding of the evolutionarily conserved roles of TNF/TNFR superfamily proteins in normal development, as well as in some pathophysiological conditions.
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