One of the great revelations of post-genomic biology has been the extent to which essential functions and mechanisms are conserved across vast phylogenetic distances. Because of this, we can look to the fruit fly for answers to pressing open questions on the unknown functions of genes and the mechanisms of their physiological integration.
Precise regulation of stem cell activity is crucial for tissue homeostasis and necessary to prevent overproliferation. In the Drosophila adult gut, high levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) has been detected with different types of tissue damage, and oxidative stress has been shown to be both necessary and sufficient to trigger intestinal stem cell (ISC) proliferation. However, the connection between oxidative stress and mitogenic signals remains obscure. In a screen for genes required for ISC proliferation in response to oxidative stress, we identified two regulators of cytosolic Ca(2+) levels, transient receptor potential A1 (TRPA1) and ryanodine receptor (RyR). Characterization of TRPA1 and RyR demonstrates that Ca(2+) signaling is required for oxidative stress-induced activation of the Ras/MAPK pathway, which in turns drives ISC proliferation. Our findings provide a link between redox regulation and Ca(2+) signaling and reveal a novel mechanism by which ISCs detect stress signals.
Mutations in the Presenilin genes are the major genetic cause of Alzheimer's disease. Presenilin and Nicastrin are essential components of γ-secretase, a multi-subunit protease that cleaves Type I transmembrane proteins. Genetic studies in mice previously demonstrated that conditional inactivation of Presenilin or Nicastrin in excitatory neurons of the postnatal forebrain results in memory deficits, synaptic impairment and age-dependent neurodegeneration. The roles of Drosophila Presenilin (Psn) and Nicastrin (Nct) in the adult fly brain, however, are unknown. To knockdown (KD) Psn or Nct selectively in neurons of the adult brain, we generated multiple shRNA lines. Using a ubiquitous driver, these shRNA lines resulted in 80-90% reduction of mRNA and pupal lethality, a phenotype that is shared with Psn and Nct mutants carrying nonsense mutations. Furthermore, expression of these shRNAs in the wing disc caused notching wing phenotypes, which are also shared with Psn and Nct mutants. Similar to Nct, neuron-specific Psn KD using two independent shRNA lines led to early mortality and rough eye phenotypes, which were rescued by a fly Psn transgene. Interestingly, conditional KD (cKD) of Psn or Nct in adult neurons using the elav-Gal4 and tubulin-Gal80(ts) system caused shortened lifespan, climbing defects, increases in apoptosis and age-dependent neurodegeneration. Together, these findings demonstrate that similar to their mammalian counterparts, Drosophila Psn and Nct are required for neuronal survival during aging and normal lifespan, highlighting an evolutionarily conserved role of Presenilin in neuronal protection in the aging brain.
One major challenge encountered with interpreting human genetic variants is the limited understanding of the functional impact of genetic alterations on biological processes. Furthermore, there remains an unmet demand for an efficient survey of the wealth of information on human homologs in model organisms across numerous databases. To efficiently assess the large volume of publically available information, it is important to provide a concise summary of the most relevant information in a rapid user-friendly format. To this end, we created MARRVEL (model organism aggregated resources for rare variant exploration). MARRVEL is a publicly available website that integrates information from six human genetic databases and seven model organism databases. For any given variant or gene, MARRVEL displays information from OMIM, ExAC, ClinVar, Geno2MP, DGV, and DECIPHER. Importantly, it curates model organism-specific databases to concurrently display a concise summary regarding the human gene homologs in budding and fission yeast, worm, fly, fish, mouse, and rat on a single webpage. Experiment-based information on tissue expression, protein subcellular localization, biological process, and molecular function for the human gene and homologs in the seven model organisms are arranged into a concise output. Hence, rather than visiting multiple separate databases for variant and gene analysis, users can obtain important information by searching once through MARRVEL. Altogether, MARRVEL dramatically improves efficiency and accessibility to data collection and facilitates analysis of human genes and variants by cross-disciplinary integration of 18 million records available in public databases to facilitate clinical diagnosis and basic research.
Detection and manipulation of direct cell-cell contact in complex tissues is a fundamental and challenging problem in many biological studies. Here, we report an optimized Notch-based synthetic receptor (synNQ) useful to study direct cell-cell interactions in Drosophila With the synNQ system, cells expressing a synthetic receptor, which contains Notch activation machinery and a downstream transcriptional activator, QF, are activated by a synthetic GFP ligand expressed by contacting neighbor cells. To avoid cis-inhibition, mutually exclusive expression of the synthetic ligand and receptor is achieved using the "flippase-out" system. Expression of the synthetic GFP ligand is controlled by the Gal4/UAS system for easy and broad applications. Using synNQ, we successfully visualized cell-cell interactions within and between most fly tissues, revealing previously undocumented cell-cell contacts. Importantly, in addition to detection of cells in contact with one another, synNQ allows for genetic manipulation in all cells in contact with a targeted cell population, which we demonstrate in the context of cell competition in developing wing disks. Altogether, the synNQ genetic system will enable a broad range of studies of cell contact in developmental biology.
Characterizing the proteome composition of organelles and subcellular regions of living cells can facilitate the understanding of cellular organization as well as protein interactome networks. Proximity labeling-based methods coupled with mass spectrometry (MS) offer a high-throughput approach for systematic analysis of spatially restricted proteomes. Proximity labeling utilizes enzymes that generate reactive radicals to covalently tag neighboring proteins with biotin. The biotinylated endogenous proteins can then be isolated for further analysis by MS. To analyze protein-protein interactions or identify components that localize to discrete subcellular compartments, spatial expression is achieved by fusing the enzyme to specific proteins or signal peptides that target to particular subcellular regions. Although these technologies have only been introduced recently, they have already provided deep insights into a wide range of biological processes. Here, we describe and compare current methods of proximity labeling as well as their applications. As each method has its own unique features, the goal of this review is to describe how different proximity labeling methods can be used to answer different biological questions. For further resources related to this article, please visit the WIREs website.
THADA has been associated with cold adaptation and diabetes in humans, but the cellular and molecular basis of its function has been unknown. Moraru and colleagues (2017) report in this issue of Developmental Cell that it triggers thermogenesis by uncoupling ATP hydrolysis from calcium transport into the endoplasmic reticulum.
A synthetic lethal interaction is a type of genetic interaction where the disruption of either of two genes individually has little effect but their combined disruption is lethal. Knowledge of synthetic lethal interactions can allow for elucidation of network structure and identification of candidate drug targets for human diseases such as cancer. In Drosophila, combinatorial gene disruption has been achieved previously by combining multiple RNAi reagents. Here we describe a protocol for high-throughput combinatorial gene disruption by combining CRISPR and RNAi. This approach previously resulted in the identification of highly reproducible and conserved synthetic lethal interactions (Housden et al., 2015).
While high-caloric diet impairs insulin response to cause hyperglycemia, whether and how counter-regulatory hormones are modulated by high-caloric diet is largely unknown. We find that enhanced response of Drosophila adipokinetic hormone (AKH, the glucagon homolog) in the fat body is essential for hyperglycemia associated with a chronic high-sugar diet. We show that the activin type I receptor Baboon (Babo) autonomously increases AKH signaling without affecting insulin signaling in the fat body via, at least, increase of Akh receptor (AkhR) expression. Further, we demonstrate that Activin-β (Actβ), an activin ligand predominantly produced in the enteroendocrine cells (EEs) of the midgut, is upregulated by chronic high-sugar diet and signals through Babo to promote AKH action in the fat body, leading to hyperglycemia. Importantly, activin signaling in mouse primary hepatocytes also increases glucagon response and glucagon-induced glucose production, indicating a conserved role for activin in enhancing AKH/glucagon signaling and glycemic control.
BACKGROUND: Next-generation sequencing technologies have greatly increased our ability to identify gene expression levels, including at specific developmental stages and in specific tissues. Gene expression data can help researchers understand the diverse functions of genes and gene networks, as well as help in the design of specific and efficient functional studies, such as by helping researchers choose the most appropriate tissue for a study of a group of genes, or conversely, by limiting a long list of gene candidates to the subset that are normally expressed at a given stage or in a given tissue. RESULTS: We report DGET, a Drosophila Gene Expression Tool ( www.flyrnai.org/tools/dget/web/ ), which stores and facilitates search of RNA-Seq based expression profiles available from the modENCODE consortium and other public data sets. Using DGET, researchers are able to look up gene expression profiles, filter results based on threshold expression values, and compare expression data across different developmental stages, tissues and treatments. In addition, at DGET a researcher can analyze tissue or stage-specific enrichment for an inputted list of genes (e.g., 'hits' from a screen) and search for additional genes with similar expression patterns. We performed a number of analyses to demonstrate the quality and robustness of the resource. In particular, we show that evolutionary conserved genes expressed at high or moderate levels in both fly and human tend to be expressed in similar tissues. Using DGET, we compared whole tissue profile and sub-region/cell-type specific datasets and estimated a potential source of false positives in one dataset. We also demonstrated the usefulness of DGET for synexpression studies by querying genes with expression profile similar to the mesodermal master regulator Twist. CONCLUSION: Altogether, DGET provides a flexible tool for expression data retrieval and analysis with short or long lists of Drosophila genes, which can help scientists to design stage- or tissue-specific in vivo studies and do other subsequent analyses.
The absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion (ADME) of metabolites and toxic organic solutes are orchestrated by the ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters and the organic solute carrier family (SLC) proteins. A large number of ABC and SLC transpoters exist; however, only a small number have been well characterized. To facilitate the analysis of these transporters, which is important for drug safety and physiological studies, we developed a sensitive genetically encoded bilirubin (BR)-inducible fluorescence sensor (eUnaG) to detect transporter-coupled influx/efflux of organic compounds. This sensor can be used in live cells to measure transporter activity, as excretion of BR depends on ABC and SLC transporters. Applying eUnaG in functional RNAi screens, we characterize l(2)03659 as a Drosophila multidrug resistant-associated ABC transporter.
Proper regulation of osmotic balance and response to tissue damage is crucial in maintaining intestinal stem cell (ISC) homeostasis. We found that Drosophila miR-263a downregulates the expression of epithelial sodium channel (ENaC) subunits in enterocytes (ECs) to maintain osmotic and ISC homeostasis. In the absence of miR-263a, the intraluminal surface of the intestine displays dehydration-like phenotypes, Na(+) levels are increased in ECs, stress pathways are activated in ECs, and ISCs overproliferate. Furthermore, miR-263a mutants have increased bacterial load and expression of antimicrobial peptides. Strikingly, these phenotypes are reminiscent of the pathophysiology of cystic fibrosis (CF) in which loss-of-function mutations in the chloride channel CF transmembrane conductance regulator can elevate the activity of ENaC, suggesting that Drosophila could be used as a model for CF. Finally, we provide evidence that overexpression of miR-183, the human ortholog of miR-263a, can also directly target the expressions of all three subunits of human ENaC.
Our understanding of the genetic mechanisms that underlie biological processes has relied extensively on loss-of-function (LOF) analyses. LOF methods target DNA, RNA or protein to reduce or to ablate gene function. By analysing the phenotypes that are caused by these perturbations the wild-type function of genes can be elucidated. Although all LOF methods reduce gene activity, the choice of approach (for example, mutagenesis, CRISPR-based gene editing, RNA interference, morpholinos or pharmacological inhibition) can have a major effect on phenotypic outcomes. Interpretation of the LOF phenotype must take into account the biological process that is targeted by each method. The practicality and efficiency of LOF methods also vary considerably between model systems. We describe parameters for choosing the optimal combination of method and system, and for interpreting phenotypes within the constraints of each method.
The FlyRNAi database of the Drosophila RNAi Screening Center (DRSC) and Transgenic RNAi Project (TRiP) at Harvard Medical School and associated DRSC/TRiP Functional Genomics Resources website (http://fgr.hms.harvard.edu) serve as a reagent production tracking system, screen data repository, and portal to the community. Through this portal, we make available protocols, online tools, and other resources useful to researchers at all stages of high-throughput functional genomics screening, from assay design and reagent identification to data analysis and interpretation. In this update, we describe recent changes and additions to our website, database and suite of online tools. Recent changes reflect a shift in our focus from a single technology (RNAi) and model species (Drosophila) to the application of additional technologies (e.g. CRISPR) and support of integrated, cross-species approaches to uncovering gene function using functional genomics and other approaches.
Drosophila melanogaster has been adopted as one of the most-used model systems since it was first introduced by Thomas Morgan for the study of heredity in the early 20th century. Its experimental tractability and similarity of its biological pathways to those of humans have placed the model at the forefront of research into human development and disease. With the ongoing accumulation of genetic tools and assays, the fly community has at its fingertips the resources to generate diverse Drosophila disease models for the study of genes and pathways involved in a wide range of disorders. In recent years, the fly has also been used successfully for drug screening. In this Editorial, we introduce a Special Collection of reviews, interviews and original research articles that highlight some of the many ways that Drosophila has made, and continues to make, an impact on basic biological insights and translational science.
Germline genes often become re-expressed in soma-derived human cancers as "cancer/testis antigens" (CTAs), and piRNA (PIWI-interacting RNA) pathway proteins are found among CTAs. However, whether and how the piRNA pathway contributes to oncogenesis in human neoplasms remain poorly understood. We found that oncogenic Ras combined with loss of the Hippo tumor suppressor pathway reactivates a primary piRNA pathway in Drosophila somatic cells coincident with oncogenic transformation. In these cells, Piwi becomes loaded with piRNAs derived from annotated generative loci, which are normally restricted to either the germline or the somatic follicle cells. Negating the pathway leads to increases in the expression of a wide variety of transposons and also altered expression of some protein-coding genes. This correlates with a reduction in the proliferation of the transformed cells in culture, suggesting that, at least in this context, the piRNA pathway may play a functional role in cancer.
Studies in mammals and Drosophila have demonstrated the existence and significance of secreted factors involved in communication between distal organs. In this review, primarily focusing on Drosophila, we examine the known interorgan communication factors and their functions, physiological inducers, and integration in regulating physiology. Moreover, we describe how organ-sensing screens in Drosophila can systematically identify novel conserved interorgan communication factors. Finally, we discuss how interorgan communication enabled and evolved as a result of specialization of organs. Together, we anticipate that future studies will establish a model for metazoan interorgan communication network (ICN) and how it is deregulated in disease. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Genetics Volume 50 is November 23, 2016. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/page/journal/pubdates for revised estimates.
The recent development of the CRISPR-Cas9 system for genome engineering has revolutionized our ability to modify the endogenous DNA sequence of many organisms, including Drosophila This system allows alteration of DNA sequences in situ with single base-pair precision and is now being used for a wide variety of applications. To use the CRISPR system effectively, various design parameters must be considered, including single guide RNA target site selection and identification of successful editing events. Here, we review recent advances in CRISPR methodology in Drosophila and introduce protocols for some of the more difficult aspects of CRISPR implementation: designing and generating CRISPR reagents and detecting indel mutations by high-resolution melt analysis.
The generation of precise alterations to the genome using CRISPR requires the combination of CRISPR and a donor construct containing homology to the target site. A double-strand break is first generated at the target locus using CRISPR. It is then repaired using the endogenous homologous recombination (HR) pathway. When a donor construct is provided, it can be used as a template for HR repair and can therefore be exploited to introduce alterations in the genomic sequence with single base-pair precision. Here we describe a protocol for the generation of donor constructs using Golden Gate assembly and discuss some key considerations for donor construct design for use in Drosophila.
The recent advances in CRISPR-based genome engineering have enabled a plethora of new experiments to study a wide range of biological questions. The major attraction of this system over previous methods is its high efficiency and simplicity of use. For example, whereas previous genome engineering technologies required the generation of new proteins to target each new locus, CRISPR requires only the expression of a different single guide RNA (sgRNA). This sgRNA binds to the Cas9 endonuclease protein and directs the generation of a double-strand break to a highly specific genomic site determined by the sgRNA sequence. In addition, the relative simplicity of the Drosophila genome is a particular advantage, as possible sgRNA off-target sites can easily be avoided. Here, we provide a step-by-step protocol for designing sgRNA target sites using the Drosophila RNAi Screening Center (DRSC) Find CRISPRs tool (version 2). We also describe the generation of sgRNA expression plasmids for the use in cultured Drosophila cells or in vivo. Finally, we discuss specific design requirements for various genome engineering applications.