Research Article

Kanca O, Zirin J, Hu Y, Tepe B, Dutta D, Lin W-W, et al. An expanded toolkit for gene tagging using synthesized homology donor constructs for CRISPR-mediated homologous recombination. Elife [Internet]. 2022;11. PMC Full TextAbstract
Previously, we described a large collection of Drosophila strains that each carry an artificial exon containing a T2AGAL4 cassette inserted in an intron of a target gene based on CRISPR-mediated homologous recombination. These alleles permit numerous applications and have proven to be very useful. Initially, the homologous recombination-based donor constructs had long homology arms (>500 bps) to promote precise integration of large constructs (>5 kb). Recently, we showed that in vivo linearization of the donor constructs enables insertion of large artificial exons in introns using short homology arms (100-200 bps). Shorter homology arms make it feasible to commercially synthesize homology donors and minimize the cloning steps for donor construct generation. Unfortunately, about 58% of Drosophila genes lack a suitable coding intron for integration of artificial exons in all of the annotated isoforms. Here, we report the development of new set of constructs that allow the replacement of the coding region of genes that lack suitable introns with a KozakGAL4 cassette, generating a knock-out/knock-in allele that expresses GAL4 similarly as the targeted gene. We also developed custom vector backbones to further facilitate and improve transgenesis. Synthesis of homology donor constructs in custom plasmid backbones that contain the target gene sgRNA obviates the need to inject a separate sgRNA plasmid and significantly increases the transgenesis efficiency. These upgrades will enable the targeting of nearly every fly gene, regardless of exon-intron structure, with a 70-80% success rate.
Xu J, Liu Y, Li H, Tarashansky AJ, Kalicki CH, Hung R-J, et al. Transcriptional and functional motifs defining renal function revealed by single-nucleus RNA sequencing. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A [Internet]. 2022;119 (25) :e2203179119. PMC Full TextAbstract
Recent advances in single-cell sequencing provide a unique opportunity to gain novel insights into the diversity, lineage, and functions of cell types constituting a tissue/organ. Here, we performed a single-nucleus study of the adult Drosophila renal system, consisting of Malpighian tubules and nephrocytes, which shares similarities with the mammalian kidney. We identified 11 distinct clusters representing renal stem cells, stellate cells, regionally specific principal cells, garland nephrocyte cells, and pericardial nephrocytes. Characterization of the transcription factors specific to each cluster identified fruitless (fru) as playing a role in stem cell regeneration and Hepatocyte nuclear factor 4 (Hnf4) in regulating glycogen and triglyceride metabolism. In addition, we identified a number of genes, including Rho guanine nucleotide exchange factor at 64C (RhoGEF64c), Frequenin 2 (Frq2), Prip, and CG1093 that are involved in regulating the unusual star shape of stellate cells. Importantly, the single-nucleus dataset allows visualization of the expression at the organ level of genes involved in ion transport and junctional permeability, providing a systems-level view of the organization and physiological roles of the tubules. Finally, a cross-species analysis allowed us to match the fly kidney cell types to mouse kidney cell types and planarian protonephridia, knowledge that will help the generation of kidney disease models. Altogether, our study provides a comprehensive resource for studying the fly kidney.
Terakawa A, Hu Y, Kokaji T, Yugi K, Morita K, Ohno S, et al. Trans-omics analysis of insulin action reveals a cell growth subnetwork which co-regulates anabolic processes. iScience [Internet]. 2022;25 (5) :104231. PMC Full TextAbstract
Insulin signaling promotes anabolic metabolism to regulate cell growth through multi-omic interactions. To obtain a comprehensive view of the cellular responses to insulin, we constructed a trans-omic network of insulin action in Drosophila cells that involves the integration of multi-omic data sets. In this network, 14 transcription factors, including Myc, coordinately upregulate the gene expression of anabolic processes such as nucleotide synthesis, transcription, and translation, consistent with decreases in metabolites such as nucleotide triphosphates and proteinogenic amino acids required for transcription and translation. Next, as cell growth is required for cell proliferation and insulin can stimulate proliferation in a context-dependent manner, we integrated the trans-omic network with results from a CRISPR functional screen for cell proliferation. This analysis validates the role of a Myc-mediated subnetwork that coordinates the activation of genes involved in anabolic processes required for cell growth.
Liu Y, Saavedra P, Perrimon N. Cancer cachexia: lessons from Drosophila. Dis Model Mech [Internet]. 2022;15 (3). PMC Full TextAbstract
Cachexia, a wasting syndrome that is often associated with cancer, is one of the primary causes of death in cancer patients. Cancer cachexia occurs largely due to systemic metabolic alterations stimulated by tumors. Despite the prevalence of cachexia, our understanding of how tumors interact with host tissues and how they affect metabolism is limited. Among the challenges of studying tumor-host tissue crosstalk are the complexity of cancer itself and our insufficient knowledge of the factors that tumors release into the blood. Drosophila is emerging as a powerful model in which to identify tumor-derived factors that influence systemic metabolism and tissue wasting. Strikingly, studies that are characterizing factors derived from different fly tumor cachexia models are identifying both common and distinct cachectic molecules, suggesting that cachexia is more than one disease and that fly models can help identify these differences. Here, we review what has been learned from studies of tumor-induced organ wasting in Drosophila and discuss the open questions.
AGRC. Harmonizing model organism data in the Alliance of Genome Resources. Genetics [Internet]. 2022;220 (4). PMC Full TextAbstract
The Alliance of Genome Resources (the Alliance) is a combined effort of 7 knowledgebase projects: Saccharomyces Genome Database, WormBase, FlyBase, Mouse Genome Database, the Zebrafish Information Network, Rat Genome Database, and the Gene Ontology Resource. The Alliance seeks to provide several benefits: better service to the various communities served by these projects; a harmonized view of data for all biomedical researchers, bioinformaticians, clinicians, and students; and a more sustainable infrastructure. The Alliance has harmonized cross-organism data to provide useful comparative views of gene function, gene expression, and human disease relevance. The basis of the comparative views is shared calls of orthology relationships and the use of common ontologies. The key types of data are alleles and variants, gene function based on gene ontology annotations, phenotypes, association to human disease, gene expression, protein-protein and genetic interactions, and participation in pathways. The information is presented on uniform gene pages that allow facile summarization of information about each gene in each of the 7 organisms covered (budding yeast, roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans, fruit fly, house mouse, zebrafish, brown rat, and human). The harmonized knowledge is freely available on the portal, as downloadable files, and by APIs. We expect other existing and emerging knowledge bases to join in the effort to provide the union of useful data and features that each knowledge base currently provides.
Li H, Janssens J, De Waegeneer M, Kolluru SS, Davie K, Gardeux V, et al. Fly Cell Atlas: A single-nucleus transcriptomic atlas of the adult fruit fly. Science. 2022;375 (6584) :eabk2432. Abstract
For more than 100 years, the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster has been one of the most studied model organisms. Here, we present a single-cell atlas of the adult fly, Tabula Drosophilae, that includes 580,000 nuclei from 15 individually dissected sexed tissues as well as the entire head and body, annotated to >250 distinct cell types. We provide an in-depth analysis of cell type-related gene signatures and transcription factor markers, as well as sexual dimorphism, across the whole animal. Analysis of common cell types between tissues, such as blood and muscle cells, reveals rare cell types and tissue-specific subtypes. This atlas provides a valuable resource for the Drosophila community and serves as a reference to study genetic perturbations and disease models at single-cell resolution.
2022_Science_FCA Consortium.pdf
Li Z, Qian W, Song W, Zhao T, Yang Y, Wang W, et al. A salivary gland-secreted peptide regulates insect systemic growth. Cell Rep. 2022;38 (8) :110397. Abstract
Insect salivary glands have been previously shown to function in pupal attachment and food lubrication by secreting factors into the lumen via an exocrine way. Here, we find in Drosophila that a salivary gland-derived secreted factor (Sgsf) peptide regulates systemic growth via an endocrine way. Sgsf is specifically expressed in salivary glands and secreted into the hemolymph. Sgsf knockout or salivary gland-specific Sgsf knockdown decrease the size of both the body and organs, phenocopying the effects of genetic ablation of salivary glands, while salivary gland-specific Sgsf overexpression increases their size. Sgsf promotes systemic growth by modulating the secretion of the insulin-like peptide Dilp2 from the brain insulin-producing cells (IPCs) and affecting mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling in the fat body. Altogether, our study demonstrates that Sgsf mediates the roles of salivary glands in Drosophila systemic growth, establishing an endocrine function of salivary glands.
Jouandin P, Marelja Z, Shih Y-H, Parkhitko AA, Dambowsky M, Asara JM, et al. Lysosomal cystine mobilization shapes the response of TORC1 and tissue growth to fasting. Science. 2022;375 (6582) :eabc4203. Abstract
Adaptation to nutrient scarcity involves an orchestrated response of metabolic and signaling pathways to maintain homeostasis. We find that in the fat body of fasting Drosophila, lysosomal export of cystine coordinates remobilization of internal nutrient stores with reactivation of the growth regulator target of rapamycin complex 1 (TORC1). Mechanistically, cystine was reduced to cysteine and metabolized to acetyl-coenzyme A (acetyl-CoA) by promoting CoA metabolism. In turn, acetyl-CoA retained carbons from alternative amino acids in the form of tricarboxylic acid cycle intermediates and restricted the availability of building blocks required for growth. This process limited TORC1 reactivation to maintain autophagy and allowed animals to cope with starvation periods. We propose that cysteine metabolism mediates a communication between lysosomes and mitochondria, highlighting how changes in diet divert the fate of an amino acid into a growth suppressive program.
2022_Science_Jouandin.pdf 2022_Science_Jouandin_Supp.pdf
Xu J, Kim A-R, Cheloha RW, Fischer FA, Li JSS, Feng Y, et al. Protein visualization and manipulation in through the use of epitope tags recognized by nanobodies. Elife. 2022;11. Abstract
Expansion of the available repertoire of reagents for visualization and manipulation of proteins will help understand their function. Short epitope tags linked to proteins of interest and recognized by existing binders such as nanobodies facilitate protein studies by obviating the need to isolate new antibodies directed against them. Nanobodies have several advantages over conventional antibodies, as they can be expressed and used as tools for visualization and manipulation of proteins in vivo. Here, we characterize two short (<15aa) NanoTag epitopes, 127D01 and VHH05, and their corresponding high-affinity nanobodies. We demonstrate their use in Drosophila for in vivo protein detection and re-localization, direct and indirect immunofluorescence, immunoblotting, and immunoprecipitation. We further show that CRISPR-mediated gene targeting provides a straightforward approach to tagging endogenous proteins with the NanoTags. Single copies of the NanoTags, regardless of their location, suffice for detection. This versatile and validated toolbox of tags and nanobodies will serve as a resource for a wide array of applications, including functional studies in Drosophila and beyond.
Zhao H, Shi L, Li Z, Kong R, Ren X, Ma R, et al. The Yun/Prohibitin complex regulates adult intestinal stem cell proliferation through the transcription factor E2F1. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2022;119 (6). Abstract
Stem cells constantly divide and differentiate to maintain adult tissue homeostasis, and uncontrolled stem cell proliferation leads to severe diseases such as cancer. How stem cell proliferation is precisely controlled remains poorly understood. Here, from an RNA interference (RNAi) screen in adult Drosophila intestinal stem cells (ISCs), we identify a factor, Yun, required for proliferation of normal and transformed ISCs. Yun is mainly expressed in progenitors; our genetic and biochemical evidence suggest that it acts as a scaffold to stabilize the Prohibitin (PHB) complex previously implicated in various cellular and developmental processes and diseases. We demonstrate that the Yun/PHB complex is regulated by and acts downstream of EGFR/MAPK signaling. Importantly, the Yun/PHB complex interacts with and positively affects the levels of the transcription factor E2F1 to regulate ISC proliferation. In addition, we find that the role of the PHB complex in cell proliferation is evolutionarily conserved. Thus, our study uncovers a Yun/PHB-E2F1 regulatory axis in stem cell proliferation.
2022_PNAS_Zhao.pdf 2022_PNAS_Zhao_Supp.pdf
Liu Y, Li JSS, Rodiger J, Comjean A, Attrill H, Antonazzo G, et al. FlyPhoneDB: an integrated web-based resource for cell-cell communication prediction in Drosophila. Genetics. 2021;Abstract
Multicellular organisms rely on cell-cell communication to exchange information necessary for developmental processes and metabolic homeostasis. Cell-cell communication pathways can be inferred from transcriptomic datasets based on ligand-receptor expression. Recently, data generated from single-cell RNA sequencing have enabled ligand-receptor interaction predictions at an unprecedented resolution. While computational methods are available to infer cell-cell communication in vertebrates such a tool does not yet exist for Drosophila. Here, we generated a high-confidence list of ligand-receptor pairs for the major fly signaling pathways and developed FlyPhoneDB, a quantification algorithm that calculates interaction scores to predict ligand-receptor interactions between cells. At the FlyPhoneDB user interface, results are presented in a variety of tabular and graphical formats to facilitate biological interpretation. To illustrate that FlyPhoneDB can effectively identify active ligands and receptors to uncover cell-cell communication events, we applied FlyPhoneDB to Drosophila single-cell RNA sequencing data sets from adult midgut, abdomen, and blood, and demonstrate that FlyPhoneDB can readily identify previously characterized cell-cell communication pathways. Altogether, FlyPhoneDB is an easy-to-use framework that can be used to predict cell-cell communication between cell types from single-cell RNA sequencing data in Drosophila.
Viswanatha R, Mameli E, Rodiger J, Merckaert P, Feitosa-Suntheimer F, Colpitts TM, et al. Bioinformatic and cell-based tools for pooled CRISPR knockout screening in mosquitos. Nat Commun [Internet]. 2021;12 (1) :6825. Open Access (PMC) ArticleAbstract
Mosquito-borne diseases present a worldwide public health burden. Current efforts to understand and counteract them have been aided by the use of cultured mosquito cells. Moreover, application in mammalian cells of forward genetic approaches such as CRISPR screens have identified essential genes and genes required for host-pathogen interactions, and in general, aided in functional annotation of genes. An equivalent approach for genetic screening of mosquito cell lines has been lacking. To develop such an approach, we design a new bioinformatic portal for sgRNA library design in several mosquito genomes, engineer mosquito cell lines to express Cas9 and accept sgRNA at scale, and identify optimal promoters for sgRNA expression in several mosquito species. We then optimize a recombination-mediated cassette exchange system to deliver CRISPR sgRNA and perform pooled CRISPR screens in an Anopheles cell line. Altogether, we provide a platform for high-throughput genome-scale screening in cell lines from disease vector species.
Parkhitko AA, Wang L, Filine E, Jouandin P, Leshchiner D, Binari R, et al. A genetic model of methionine restriction extends health- and lifespan. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2021;118 (40). Abstract
Loss of metabolic homeostasis is a hallmark of aging and is characterized by dramatic metabolic reprogramming. To analyze how the fate of labeled methionine is altered during aging, we applied 13C5-Methionine labeling to Drosophila and demonstrated significant changes in the activity of different branches of the methionine metabolism as flies age. We further tested whether targeted degradation of methionine metabolism components would "reset" methionine metabolism flux and extend the fly lifespan. Specifically, we created transgenic flies with inducible expression of Methioninase, a bacterial enzyme capable of degrading methionine and revealed methionine requirements for normal maintenance of lifespan. We also demonstrated that microbiota-derived methionine is an alternative and important source in addition to food-derived methionine. In this genetic model of methionine restriction (MetR), we also demonstrate that either whole-body or tissue-specific Methioninase expression can dramatically extend Drosophila health- and lifespan and exerts physiological effects associated with MetR. Interestingly, while previous dietary MetR extended lifespan in flies only in low amino acid conditions, MetR from Methioninase expression extends lifespan independently of amino acid levels in the food. Finally, because impairment of the methionine metabolism has been previously associated with the development of Alzheimer's disease, we compared methionine metabolism reprogramming between aging flies and a Drosophila model relevant to Alzheimer's disease, and found that overexpression of human Tau caused methionine metabolism flux reprogramming similar to the changes found in aged flies. Altogether, our study highlights Methioninase as a potential agent for health- and lifespan extension.
Tattikota SG, Perrimon N. Preparation of Drosophila Larval Blood Cells for Single-cell RNA Sequencing. Bio-Protocol. 2021;11 (16). 2021_Bio-Protocol_Tattikota.pdf
Ding G, Xiang X, Hu Y, Xiao G, Chen Y, Binari R, et al. Coordination of tumor growth and host wasting by tumor-derived Upd3. Cell Rep. 2021;36 (7) :109553. Abstract
yki-induced gut tumors in Drosophila are associated with host wasting, including muscle dysfunction, lipid loss, and hyperglycemia, a condition reminiscent of human cancer cachexia. We previously used this model to identify tumor-derived ligands that contribute to host wasting. To identify additional molecular networks involved in host-tumor interactions, we develop PathON, a web-based tool analyzing the major signaling pathways in Drosophila, and uncover the Upd3/Jak/Stat axis as an important modulator. We find that yki-gut tumors secrete Upd3 to promote self-overproliferation and enhance Jak/Stat signaling in host organs to cause wasting, including muscle dysfunction, lipid loss, and hyperglycemia. We further reveal that Upd3/Jak/Stat signaling in the host organs directly triggers the expression of ImpL2, an antagonistic binding protein for insulin-like peptides, to impair insulin signaling and energy balance. Altogether, our results demonstrate that yki-gut tumors produce a Jak/Stat pathway ligand, Upd3, that regulates both self-growth and host wasting.
Cable J, Pourquié O, Wellen KE, Finley LWS, Aulehla A, Gould AP, et al. Metabolic decisions in development and disease-a Keystone Symposia report. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2021;Abstract
There is an increasing appreciation for the role of metabolism in cell signaling and cell decision making. Precise metabolic control is essential in development, as evident by the disorders caused by mutations in metabolic enzymes. The metabolic profile of cells is often cell-type specific, changing as cells differentiate or during tumorigenesis. Recent evidence has shown that changes in metabolism are not merely a consequence of changes in cell state but that metabolites can serve to promote and/or inhibit these changes. Metabolites can link metabolic pathways with cell signaling pathways via several mechanisms, for example, by serving as substrates for protein post-translational modifications, by affecting enzyme activity via allosteric mechanisms, or by altering epigenetic markers. Unraveling the complex interactions governing metabolism, gene expression, and protein activity that ultimately govern a cell's fate will require new tools and interactions across disciplines. On March 24 and 25, 2021, experts in cell metabolism, developmental biology, and human disease met virtually for the Keystone eSymposium, "Metabolic Decisions in Development and Disease." The discussions explored how metabolites impact cellular and developmental decisions in a diverse range of model systems used to investigate normal development, developmental disorders, dietary effects, and cancer-mediated changes in metabolism.
Conard AM, Goodman N, Hu Y, Perrimon N, Singh R, Lawrence C, et al. TIMEOR: a web-based tool to uncover temporal regulatory mechanisms from multi-omics data. Nucleic Acids Res. 2021;Abstract
Uncovering how transcription factors regulate their targets at DNA, RNA and protein levels over time is critical to define gene regulatory networks (GRNs) and assign mechanisms in normal and diseased states. RNA-seq is a standard method measuring gene regulation using an established set of analysis stages. However, none of the currently available pipeline methods for interpreting ordered genomic data (in time or space) use time-series models to assign cause and effect relationships within GRNs, are adaptive to diverse experimental designs, or enable user interpretation through a web-based platform. Furthermore, methods integrating ordered RNA-seq data with protein-DNA binding data to distinguish direct from indirect interactions are urgently needed. We present TIMEOR (Trajectory Inference and Mechanism Exploration with Omics data in R), the first web-based and adaptive time-series multi-omics pipeline method which infers the relationship between gene regulatory events across time. TIMEOR addresses the critical need for methods to determine causal regulatory mechanism networks by leveraging time-series RNA-seq, motif analysis, protein-DNA binding data, and protein-protein interaction networks. TIMEOR's user-catered approach helps non-coders generate new hypotheses and validate known mechanisms. We used TIMEOR to identify a novel link between insulin stimulation and the circadian rhythm cycle. TIMEOR is available at and
Hu Y, Tattikota SG, Liu Y, Comjean A, Gao Y, Forman C, et al. DRscDB: A single-cell RNA-seq resource for data mining and data comparison across species. Comput Struct Biotechnol J. 2021;19 :2018-2026. Abstract
With the advent of single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) technologies, there has been a spike in studies involving scRNA-seq of several tissues across diverse species including Drosophila. Although a few databases exist for users to query genes of interest within the scRNA-seq studies, search tools that enable users to find orthologous genes and their cell type-specific expression patterns across species are limited. Here, we built a new search database, DRscDB (, to address this need. DRscDB serves as a comprehensive repository for published scRNA-seq datasets for Drosophila and relevant datasets from human and other model organisms. DRscDB is based on manual curation of Drosophila scRNA-seq studies of various tissue types and their corresponding analogous tissues in vertebrates including zebrafish, mouse, and human. Of note, our search database provides most of the literature-derived marker genes, thus preserving the original analysis of the published scRNA-seq datasets. Finally, DRscDB serves as a web-based user interface that allows users to mine gene expression data from scRNA-seq studies and perform cell cluster enrichment analyses pertaining to various scRNA-seq studies, both within and across species.
Feng X, López Del Amo V, Mameli E, Lee M, Bishop AL, Perrimon N, et al. Optimized CRISPR tools and site-directed transgenesis towards gene drive development in Culex quinquefasciatus mosquitoes. Nat Commun. 2021;12 (1) :2960. Abstract
Culex mosquitoes are a global vector for multiple human and animal diseases, including West Nile virus, lymphatic filariasis, and avian malaria, posing a constant threat to public health, livestock, companion animals, and endangered birds. While rising insecticide resistance has threatened the control of Culex mosquitoes, advances in CRISPR genome-editing tools have fostered the development of alternative genetic strategies such as gene drive systems to fight disease vectors. However, though gene-drive technology has quickly progressed in other mosquitoes, advances have been lacking in Culex. Here, we develop a Culex-specific Cas9/gRNA expression toolkit and use site-directed homology-based transgenesis to generate and validate a Culex quinquefasciatus Cas9-expressing line. We show that gRNA scaffold variants improve transgenesis efficiency in both Culex quinquefasciatus and Drosophila melanogaster and boost gene-drive performance in the fruit fly. These findings support future technology development to control Culex mosquitoes and provide valuable insight for improving these tools in other species.
Droujinine IA, Meyer AS, Wang D, Udeshi ND, Hu Y, Rocco D, et al. Proteomics of protein trafficking by in vivo tissue-specific labeling. Nat Commun. 2021;12 (1) :2382. Abstract
Conventional approaches to identify secreted factors that regulate homeostasis are limited in their abilities to identify the tissues/cells of origin and destination. We established a platform to identify secreted protein trafficking between organs using an engineered biotin ligase (BirA*G3) that biotinylates, promiscuously, proteins in a subcellular compartment of one tissue. Subsequently, biotinylated proteins are affinity-enriched and identified from distal organs using quantitative mass spectrometry. Applying this approach in Drosophila, we identify 51 muscle-secreted proteins from heads and 269 fat body-secreted proteins from legs/muscles, including CG2145 (human ortholog ENDOU) that binds directly to muscles and promotes activity. In addition, in mice, we identify 291 serum proteins secreted from conditional BirA*G3 embryo stem cell-derived teratomas, including low-abundance proteins with hormonal properties. Our findings indicate that the communication network of secreted proteins is vast. This approach has broad potential across different model systems to identify cell-specific secretomes and mediators of interorgan communication in health or disease.