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.
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.
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.
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.
How proteins control the biogenesis of cellular lipid droplets (LDs) is poorly understood. Using Drosophila and human cells, we show here that seipin, an ER protein implicated in LD biology, mediates a discrete step in LD formation-the conversion of small, nascent LDs to larger, mature LDs. Seipin forms discrete and dynamic foci in the ER that interact with nascent LDs to enable their growth. In the absence of seipin, numerous small, nascent LDs accumulate near the ER and most often fail to grow. Those that do grow prematurely acquire lipid synthesis enzymes and undergo expansion, eventually leading to the giant LDs characteristic of seipin deficiency. Our studies identify a discrete step of LD formation, namely the conversion of nascent LDs to mature LDs, and define a molecular role for seipin in this process, most likely by acting at ER-LD contact sites to enable lipid transfer to nascent LDs.
Insulin regulates an essential conserved signaling pathway affecting growth, proliferation, and metabolism. To expand our understanding of the insulin pathway, we combine biochemical, genetic, and computational approaches to build a comprehensive Drosophila InR/PI3K/Akt network. First, we map the dynamic protein-protein interaction network surrounding the insulin core pathway using bait-prey interactions connecting 566 proteins. Combining RNAi screening and phospho-specific antibodies, we find that 47% of interacting proteins affect pathway activity, and, using quantitative phosphoproteomics, we demonstrate that 10% of interacting proteins are regulated by insulin stimulation at the level of phosphorylation. Next, we integrate these orthogonal datasets to characterize the structure and dynamics of the insulin network at the level of protein complexes and validate our method by identifying regulatory roles for the Protein Phosphatase 2A (PP2A) and Reptin-Pontin chromatin-remodeling complexes as negative and positive regulators of ribosome biogenesis, respectively. Altogether, our study represents a comprehensive resource for the study of the evolutionary conserved insulin network.
During development and homeostasis, cells integrate multiple signals originating either from neighboring cells or systemically. In turn, responding cells can produce signals that act in an autocrine, paracrine, or endocrine manner. Although the nature of the signals and pathways used in cell-cell communication are well characterized, we lack, in most cases, an integrative view of signaling describing the spatial and temporal interactions between pathways (e.g., whether the signals are processed sequentially or concomitantly when two pathways are required for a specific outcome). To address the extent of cross-talk between the major metazoan signaling pathways, we characterized immediate transcriptional responses to either single- or multiple pathway stimulations in homogeneous Drosophila cell lines. Our study, focusing on seven core pathways, epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), bone morphogenetic protein (BMP), Jun kinase (JNK), JAK/STAT, Notch, Insulin, and Wnt, revealed that many ligands and receptors are primary targets of signaling pathways, highlighting that transcriptional regulation of genes encoding pathway components is a major level of signaling cross-talk. In addition, we found that ligands and receptors can integrate multiple pathway activities and adjust their transcriptional responses accordingly.
Aging is a risk factor for many human pathologies and is characterized by extensive metabolic changes. Using targeted high-throughput metabolite profiling in Drosophila melanogaster at different ages, we demonstrate that methionine metabolism changes strikingly during aging. Methionine generates the methyl donor S-adenosyl-methionine (SAM), which is converted via methylation to S-adenosyl-homocysteine (SAH), which accumulates during aging. A targeted RNAi screen against methionine pathway components revealed significant life span extension in response to down-regulation of two noncanonical Drosophila homologs of the SAH hydrolase Ahcy (S-adenosyl-L-homocysteine hydrolase [SAHH[), CG9977/dAhcyL1 and Ahcy89E/CG8956/dAhcyL2, which act as dominant-negative regulators of canonical AHCY. Importantly, tissue-specific down-regulation of dAhcyL1/L2 in the brain and intestine extends health and life span. Furthermore, metabolomic analysis of dAhcyL1-deficient flies revealed its effect on age-dependent metabolic reprogramming and H3K4 methylation. Altogether, reprogramming of methionine metabolism in young flies and suppression of age-dependent SAH accumulation lead to increased life span. These studies highlight the role of noncanonical Ahcy enzymes as determinants of healthy aging and longevity.
Several programmable transcription factors exist based on the versatile Cas9 protein, yet their relative potency and effectiveness across various cell types and species remain unexplored. Here, we compare Cas9 activator systems and examine their ability to induce robust gene expression in several human, mouse, and fly cell lines. We also explore the potential for improved activation through the combination of the most potent activator systems, and we assess the role of cooperativity in maximizing gene expression.
The protein-protein interaction (PPI) network is crucial for cellular information processing and decision-making. With suitable inputs, PPI networks drive the cells to diverse functional outcomes such as cell proliferation or cell death. Here, we characterize the structural controllability of a large directed human PPI network comprising 6,339 proteins and 34,813 interactions. This network allows us to classify proteins as "indispensable," "neutral," or "dispensable," which correlates to increasing, no effect, or decreasing the number of driver nodes in the network upon removal of that protein. We find that 21% of the proteins in the PPI network are indispensable. Interestingly, these indispensable proteins are the primary targets of disease-causing mutations, human viruses, and drugs, suggesting that altering a network's control property is critical for the transition between healthy and disease states. Furthermore, analyzing copy number alterations data from 1,547 cancer patients reveals that 56 genes that are frequently amplified or deleted in nine different cancers are indispensable. Among the 56 genes, 46 of them have not been previously associated with cancer. This suggests that controllability analysis is very useful in identifying novel disease genes and potential drug targets.
Coordinating cell differentiation with cell growth and division is crucial for the successful development, homeostasis and regeneration of multicellular tissues. Here, we use bristle patterning in the fly notum as a model system to explore the regulatory and functional coupling of cell cycle progression and cell fate decision-making. The pattern of bristles and intervening epithelial cells (ECs) becomes established through Notch-mediated lateral inhibition during G2 phase of the cell cycle, as neighbouring cells physically interact with each other via lateral contacts and/or basal protrusions. Since Notch signalling controls cell division timing downstream of Cdc25, ECs in lateral contact with a Delta-expressing cell experience higher levels of Notch signalling and divide first, followed by more distant neighbours, and lastly Delta-expressing cells. Conversely, mitotic entry and cell division makes ECs refractory to lateral inhibition signalling, fixing their fate. Using a combination of experiments and computational modelling, we show that this reciprocal relationship between Notch signalling and cell cycle progression acts like a developmental clock, providing a delimited window of time during which cells decide their fate, ensuring efficient and orderly bristle patterning.
Using a series of immunoprecipitation (IP)-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) experiments and reciprocal BLAST, we conducted a fly-human cross-species comparison of the phosphoinositide-3-kinase (PI3K) interactome in a drosophila S2R+ cell line and several NSCLC and human multiple myeloma cell lines to identify conserved interacting proteins to PI3K, a critical signaling regulator of the AKT pathway. Using H929 human cancer cells and drosophila S2R+ cells, our data revealed an unexpected direct binding of Corkscrew, the drosophila ortholog of the non-receptor protein tyrosine phosphatase type II (SHP2) to the Pi3k21B (p60) regulatory subunit of PI3K (p50/p85 human ortholog) but no association with Pi3k92e, the human ortholog of the p110 catalytic subunit. The p85-SHP2 association was validated in human cell lines, and formed a ternary regulatory complex with GRB2-associated-binding protein 2 (GAB2). Validation experiments with knockdown of GAB2 and Far-Western blots proved the direct interaction of SHP2 with p85, independent of adaptor proteins and transfected FLAG-p85 provided evidence that SHP2 binding on p85 occurred on the SH2 domains. A disruption of the SHP2-p85 complex took place after insulin/IGF1 stimulation or imatinib treatment, suggesting that the direct SHP2-p85 interaction was both independent of AKT activation and positively regulates the ERK signaling pathway.
Cellular and systemic responses to low oxygen levels are principally mediated by Hypoxia Inducible Factors (HIFs), a family of evolutionary conserved heterodimeric transcription factors, whose alpha- and beta-subunits belong to the bHLH-PAS family. In normoxia, HIFα is hydroxylated by specific prolyl-4-hydroxylases, targeting it for proteasomal degradation, while in hypoxia the activity of these hydroxylases decreases due to low oxygen availability, leading to HIFα accumulation and expression of HIF target genes. To identify microRNAs required for maximal HIF activity, we conducted an overexpression screen in Drosophila melanogaster, evaluating the induction of a HIF transcriptional reporter. miR-190 overexpression enhanced HIF-dependent biological responses, including terminal sprouting of the tracheal system, while in miR-190 loss of function embryos the hypoxic response was impaired. In hypoxic conditions, miR-190 expression was upregulated and required for induction of HIF target genes by directly inhibiting the HIF prolyl-4-hydroxylase Fatiga. Thus, miR-190 is a novel regulator of the hypoxia response that represses the oxygen sensor Fatiga, leading to HIFα stabilization and enhancement of hypoxic responses.
Postsynaptic cells can induce synaptic plasticity through the release of activity-dependent retrograde signals. We previously described a Ca(2+)-dependent retrograde signaling pathway mediated by postsynaptic Synaptotagmin 4 (Syt4). To identify proteins involved in postsynaptic exocytosis, we conducted a screen for candidates that disrupted trafficking of a pHluorin-tagged Syt4 at Drosophila neuromuscular junctions (NMJs). Here we characterize one candidate, the postsynaptic t-SNARE Syntaxin 4 (Syx4). Analysis of Syx4 mutants reveals that Syx4 mediates retrograde signaling, modulating the membrane levels of Syt4 and the transsynaptic adhesion protein Neuroligin 1 (Nlg1). Syx4-dependent trafficking regulates synaptic development, including controlling synaptic bouton number and the ability to bud new varicosities in response to acute neuronal stimulation. Genetic interaction experiments demonstrate Syx4, Syt4, and Nlg1 regulate synaptic growth and plasticity through both shared and parallel signaling pathways. Our findings suggest a conserved postsynaptic SNARE machinery controls multiple aspects of retrograde signaling and cargo trafficking within the postsynaptic compartment.
Adult stem cells or residential progenitor cells are critical to maintain the structure and function of adult tissues (homeostasis) throughout the lifetime of an individual. Mis-regulation of stem cell proliferation and differentiation often leads to diseases including cancer, however, how wildtype adult stem cells and cancer cells respond to cellular damages remains unclear. We find that in the adult Drosophila midgut, intestinal stem cells (ISCs), unlike tumor intestinal cells, are resistant to various cellular damages. Tumor intestinal cells, unlike wildtype ISCs, are easily eliminated by apoptosis. Further, their proliferation is inhibited upon autophagy induction, and autophagy-mediated tumor inhibition is independent of caspase-dependent apoptosis. Interestingly, inhibition of tumorigenesis by autophagy is likely through the sequestration and degradation of mitochondria, as compromising mitochondria activity in these tumor models mimics the induction of autophagy and increasing the production of mitochondria alleviates the tumor-suppression capacity of autophagy. Together, these data demonstrate that wildtype adult stem cells and tumor cells show dramatic differences in sensitivity to cellular damages, thus providing potential therapeutic implications targeting tumorigenesis.