Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Jill Rulfs, Department Head

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

William Theurkauf, Advisor

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Elizabeth F. Ryder, Committee Member




In the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, accumulation of osk mRNA at the posterior pole of the oocyte and local translation initiate assembly of the pole plasm, which is required for germ cell formation and posterior patterning of the embryo. I have used fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) in combination with immunofluorescence and laser scanning confocal microscopy to examine the spatial and temporal control of osk transcript localization and translation. Drosophila oocytes develop within cysts of 16 interconnected cells. One cell in each cyst differentiates to form the oocyte while the remaining cells form nurse cells that produce RNAs and proteins that are transported to the oocyte. osk mRNA is produced by the nurse cells and accumulates in the oocyte throughout oogenesis, but is only specifically localized to the posterior pole and translated during mid to late oogenesis. My studies help define distinct steps in the osk mRNA localization process. An early step in posterior localization is removal of osk mRNA from most of the cortex, leading to accumulation in the oocyte interior. This process requires microtubules, the microtubule motor protein Kinesin I, the actin binding protein Tropomyosin, and the RNA binding protein Staufen. Transcript then moves from the oocyte interior to the posterior pole through a microtubule independent process. The genes cappuccino, chickadee, spire, armitage, maelstrom, par-1 and gurken are all required for this next step in osk mRNA localization. The final capturing or tethering osk mRNA at the cortex requires an intact actin filament system, but additional components of this anchoring system remain to be identified. I also find that osk mRNA first begins to accumulate at the posterior pole during oogenesis stage 8, but protein is not detectable until stage 9. In addition, grk and par-1 mutations that block osk mRNA localization to the posterior pole and lead to transcript accumulation in the interior do not prevent translation; again, Osk protein production is only observed during stage 9 and later. These observations indicate that posterior localization is neither sufficient nor necessary to trigger osk mRNA translation, which appears to be under tight temporal control.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Biology & Biotechnology

Project Type


Date Accepted





Drosophila, axis specification, oogenesis, oskar mRNA, Drosophila melanogaster, Genetics