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Activation is an essential process that accompanies fertilisation in all animals and heralds major cellular changes, most notably, resumption of the cell cycle. While activation involves wave-like oscillations in intracellular Ca(2+) concentration in mammals, ascidians and polychaete worms and a single Ca(2+) peak in fish and frogs, in insects, such as Drosophila, to date, it has not been shown what changes in intracellular Ca(2+) levels occur. Here, we utilise ratiometric imaging of Ca(2+) indicator dyes and genetically encoded Ca(2+) indicator proteins to identify and characterise a single, rapid, transient wave of Ca(2+) in the Drosophila egg at activation. Using genetic tools, physical manipulation and pharmacological treatments we demonstrate that the propagation of the Ca(2+) wave requires an intact actin cytoskeleton and an increase in intracellular Ca(2+) can be uncoupled from egg swelling, but not from progression of the cell cycle. We further show that mechanical pressure alone is not sufficient to initiate a Ca(2+) wave. We also find that processing bodies, sites of mRNA decay and translational regulation, become dispersed following the Ca(2+) transient. Based on this data we propose the following model for egg activation in Drosophila: exposure to lateral oviduct fluid initiates an increase in intracellular Ca(2+) at the egg posterior via osmotic swelling, possibly through mechano-sensitive Ca(2+) channels; a single Ca(2+) wave then propagates in an actin dependent manner; this Ca(2+) wave co-ordinates key developmental events including resumption of the cell cycle and initiation of translation of mRNAs such as bicoid.

Original publication




Journal article


Biol Open

Publication Date





553 - 560


Calcium imaging, Calcium transient, Drosophila, Egg activation