Date Published:2003 Jul 1
The lin-4 and let-7 small temporal RNAs play a central role in controlling the timing of Caenorhabditis elegans cell fate decisions. let-7 has been conserved through evolution, and its expression correlates with adult development in bilateral animals, including Drosophila [Nature 408 (2000), 86]. The best match for lin-4 in Drosophila, miR-125, is also expressed during pupal and adult stages of Drosophila development [Curr. Biol. 12 (2002), 735]. Here, we ask whether the steroid hormone ecdysone induces let-7 or miR-125 expression at the onset of metamorphosis, attempting to link a known temporal regulator in Drosophila with the heterochronic pathway defined in C. elegans. We find that let-7 and miR-125 are coordinately expressed in late larvae and prepupae, in synchrony with the high titer ecdysone pulses that initiate metamorphosis. Unexpectedly, however, their expression is neither dependent on the EcR ecdysone receptor nor inducible by ecdysone in cultured larval organs. Although let-7 and miR-125 can be induced by ecdysone in Kc tissue culture cells, their expression is significantly delayed relative to that seen in the animal. let-7 and miR-125 are encoded adjacent to one another in the genome, and their induction correlates with the transient appearance of an approximately 500-nt RNA transcribed from this region, providing a mechanism to explain their precise coordinate regulation. We conclude that a common precursor RNA containing both let-7 and miR-125 is induced independently of ecdysone in Drosophila, raising the possibility of a temporal signal that is distinct from the well-characterized ecdysone-EcR pathway.