Sex-lethal (Sxl) encodes the master regulator of the sex determination pathway in Drosophila and acts by controlling sex identity in both soma and germ line. In females Sxl maintains its own expression by controlling the alternative splicing of its own mRNA. Here, we identify a novel sex determination gene, spenito (nito) that encodes a SPEN family protein. Loss of nito activity results in stem cell tumors in the female germ line as well as female-to-male somatic transformations. We show that Nito is a ubiquitous nuclear protein that controls the alternative splicing of the Sxl mRNA by interacting with Sxl protein and pre-mRNA, suggesting that it is directly involved in Sxl auto-regulation. Given that SPEN family proteins are frequently mutated in cancers, our results suggest that these factors might be implicated in tumorigenesis through splicing regulation.
The propagation of force in epithelial tissues requires that the contractile cytoskeletal machinery be stably connected between cells through E-cadherin-containing adherens junctions. In many epithelial tissues, the cells' contractile network is positioned at a distance from the junction. However, the mechanism or mechanisms that connect the contractile networks to the adherens junctions, and thus mechanically connect neighboring cells, are poorly understood. Here, we identified the role for F-actin turnover in regulating the contractile cytoskeletal network's attachment to adherens junctions. Perturbing F-actin turnover via gene depletion or acute drug treatments that slow F-actin turnover destabilized the attachment between the contractile actomyosin network and adherens junctions. Our work identifies a critical role for F-actin turnover in connecting actomyosin to intercellular junctions, defining a dynamic process required for the stability of force balance across intercellular contacts in tissues.
Organ wasting, related to changes in nutrition and metabolic activity of cells and tissues, is observed under conditions of starvation and in the context of diseases, including cancers. We have developed a model for organ wasting in adult Drosophila, whereby overproliferation induced by activation of Yorkie, the Yap1 oncogene ortholog, in intestinal stem cells leads to wasting of the ovary, fat body, and muscle. These organ-wasting phenotypes are associated with a reduction in systemic insulin/IGF signaling due to increased expression of the secreted insulin/IGF antagonist ImpL2 from the overproliferating gut. Strikingly, expression of rate-limiting glycolytic enzymes and central components of the insulin/IGF pathway is upregulated with activation of Yorkie in the gut, which may provide a mechanism for this overproliferating tissue to evade the effect of ImpL2. Altogether, our study provides insights into the mechanisms underlying organ-wasting phenotypes in Drosophila and how overproliferating tissues adapt to global changes in metabolism.
In multicellular organisms, cell number is typically determined by a balance of intracellular signals that positively and negatively regulate cell survival and proliferation. Dissecting these signaling networks facilitates the understanding of normal development and tumorigenesis. Here, we study signaling by the Drosophila PDGF/VEGF Receptor (Pvr) in embryonic blood cells (hemocytes) and in the related cell line Kc as a model for the requirement of PDGF/VEGF receptors in vertebrate cell survival and proliferation. The system allows the investigation of downstream and parallel signaling networks, based on the ability of Pvr to activate Ras/Erk, Akt/TOR, and yet-uncharacterized signaling pathway/s, which redundantly mediate cell survival and contribute to proliferation. Using Kc cells, we performed a genome wide RNAi screen for regulators of cell number in a sensitized, Pvr deficient background. We identified the receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) Insulin-like receptor (InR) as a major Pvr Enhancer, and the nuclear hormone receptors Ecdysone receptor (EcR) and ultraspiracle (usp), corresponding to mammalian Retinoid X Receptor (RXR), as Pvr Suppressors. In vivo analysis in the Drosophila embryo revealed a previously unrecognized role for EcR to promote apoptotic death of embryonic blood cells, which is balanced with pro-survival signaling by Pvr and InR. Phosphoproteomic analysis demonstrates distinct modes of cell number regulation by EcR and RTK signaling. We define common phosphorylation targets of Pvr and InR that include regulators of cell survival, and unique targets responsible for specialized receptor functions. Interestingly, our analysis reveals that the selection of phosphorylation targets by signaling receptors shows qualitative changes depending on the signaling status of the cell, which may have wide-reaching implications for other cell regulatory systems.
Although the impact of microRNAs (miRNAs) in development and disease is well established, understanding the function of individual miRNAs remains challenging. Development of competitive inhibitor molecules such as miRNA sponges has allowed the community to address individual miRNA function in vivo. However, the application of these loss-of-function strategies has been limited. Here we offer a comprehensive library of 141 conditional miRNA sponges targeting well-conserved miRNAs in Drosophila. Ubiquitous miRNA sponge delivery and consequent systemic miRNA inhibition uncovers a relatively small number of miRNA families underlying viability and gross morphogenesis, with false discovery rates in the 4-8% range. In contrast, tissue-specific silencing of muscle-enriched miRNAs reveals a surprisingly large number of novel miRNA contributions to the maintenance of adult indirect flight muscle structure and function. A strong correlation between miRNA abundance and physiological relevance is not observed, underscoring the importance of unbiased screens when assessing the contributions of miRNAs to complex biological processes.
To facilitate large-scale functional studies in Drosophila, the Drosophila Transgenic RNAi Project (TRiP) at Harvard Medical School (HMS) was established along with several goals: developing efficient vectors for RNAi that work in all tissues, generating a genome-scale collection of RNAi stocks with input from the community, distributing the lines as they are generated through existing stock centers, validating as many lines as possible using RT-qPCR and phenotypic analyses, and developing tools and web resources for identifying RNAi lines and retrieving existing information on their quality. With these goals in mind, here we describe in detail the various tools we developed and the status of the collection, which is currently composed of 11,491 lines and covering 71% of Drosophila genes. Data on the characterization of the lines either by RT-qPCR or phenotype is available on a dedicated website, the RNAi Stock Validation and Phenotypes Project (RSVP, http://www.flyrnai.org/RSVP.html), and stocks are available from three stock centers, the Bloomington Drosophila Stock Center (United States), National Institute of Genetics (Japan), and TsingHua Fly Center (China).
Connecting phosphorylation events to kinases and phosphatases is key to understanding the molecular organization and signaling dynamics of networks. We have generated a validated set of transgenic RNA-interference reagents for knockdown and characterization of all protein kinases and phosphatases present during early Drosophila melanogaster development. These genetic tools enable collection of sufficient quantities of embryos depleted of single gene products for proteomics. As a demonstration of an application of the collection, we have used multiplexed isobaric labeling for quantitative proteomics to derive global phosphorylation signatures associated with kinase-depleted embryos to systematically link phosphosites with relevant kinases. We demonstrate how this strategy uncovers kinase consensus motifs and prioritizes phosphoproteins for kinase target validation. We validate this approach by providing auxiliary evidence for Wee kinase-directed regulation of the chromatin regulator Stonewall. Further, we show how correlative phosphorylation at the site level can indicate function, as exemplified by Sterile20-like kinase-dependent regulation of Stat92E.
The transcriptome is the readout of the genome. Identifying common features in it across distant species can reveal fundamental principles. To this end, the ENCODE and modENCODE consortia have generated large amounts of matched RNA-sequencing data for human, worm and fly. Uniform processing and comprehensive annotation of these data allow comparison across metazoan phyla, extending beyond earlier within-phylum transcriptome comparisons and revealing ancient, conserved features. Specifically, we discover co-expression modules shared across animals, many of which are enriched in developmental genes. Moreover, we use expression patterns to align the stages in worm and fly development and find a novel pairing between worm embryo and fly pupae, in addition to the embryo-to-embryo and larvae-to-larvae pairings. Furthermore, we find that the extent of non-canonical, non-coding transcription is similar in each organism, per base pair. Finally, we find in all three organisms that the gene-expression levels, both coding and non-coding, can be quantitatively predicted from chromatin features at the promoter using a 'universal model' based on a single set of organism-independent parameters.
The intestine is a key organ for lipid uptake and distribution, and abnormal intestinal lipid metabolism is associated with obesity and hyperlipidemia. Although multiple regulatory gut hormones secreted from enteroendocrine cells (EEs) regulate systemic lipid homeostasis, such as appetite control and energy balance in adipose tissue, their respective roles regarding lipid metabolism in the intestine are not well understood. We demonstrate that tachykinins (TKs), one of the most abundant secreted peptides expressed in midgut EEs, regulate intestinal lipid production and subsequently control systemic lipid homeostasis in Drosophila and that TKs repress lipogenesis in enterocytes (ECs) associated with TKR99D receptor and protein kinase A (PKA) signaling. Interestingly, nutrient deprivation enhances the production of TKs in the midgut. Finally, unlike the physiological roles of TKs produced from the brain, gut-derived TKs do not affect behavior, thus demonstrating that gut TK hormones specifically regulate intestinal lipid metabolism without affecting neuronal functions.
Animal transcriptomes are dynamic, with each cell type, tissue and organ system expressing an ensemble of transcript isoforms that give rise to substantial diversity. Here we have identified new genes, transcripts and proteins using poly(A)+ RNA sequencing from Drosophila melanogaster in cultured cell lines, dissected organ systems and under environmental perturbations. We found that a small set of mostly neural-specific genes has the potential to encode thousands of transcripts each through extensive alternative promoter usage and RNA splicing. The magnitudes of splicing changes are larger between tissues than between developmental stages, and most sex-specific splicing is gonad-specific. Gonads express hundreds of previously unknown coding and long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs), some of which are antisense to protein-coding genes and produce short regulatory RNAs. Furthermore, previously identified pervasive intergenic transcription occurs primarily within newly identified introns. The fly transcriptome is substantially more complex than previously recognized, with this complexity arising from combinatorial usage of promoters, splice sites and polyadenylation sites.
Intestinal stem cells in the adult Drosophila midgut are regulated by growth factors produced from the surrounding niche cells including enterocytes and visceral muscle. The role of the other major cell type, the secretory enteroendocrine cells, in regulating intestinal stem cells remains unclear. We show here that newly eclosed scute loss-of-function mutant flies are completely devoid of enteroendocrine cells. These enteroendocrine cell-less flies have normal ingestion and fecundity but shorter lifespan. Moreover, in these newly eclosed mutant flies, the diet-stimulated midgut growth that depends on the insulin-like peptide 3 expression in the surrounding muscle is defective. The depletion of Tachykinin-producing enteroendocrine cells or knockdown of Tachykinin leads to a similar although less severe phenotype. These results establish that enteroendocrine cells serve as an important link between diet and visceral muscle expression of an insulin-like growth factor to stimulate intestinal stem cell proliferation and tissue growth.
Using a Drosophila model of Alzheimer's disease (AD), we systematically evaluated 67 candidate genes based on AD-associated genomic loci (P < 10(-4)) from published human genome-wide association studies (GWAS). Genetic manipulation of 87 homologous fly genes was tested for modulation of neurotoxicity caused by human Tau, which forms neurofibrillary tangle pathology in AD. RNA interference (RNAi) targeting 9 genes enhanced Tau neurotoxicity, and in most cases reciprocal activation of gene expression suppressed Tau toxicity. Our screen implicates cindr, the fly ortholog of the human CD2AP AD susceptibility gene, as a modulator of Tau-mediated disease mechanisms. Importantly, we also identify the fly orthologs of FERMT2 and CELF1 as Tau modifiers, and these loci have been independently validated as AD susceptibility loci in the latest GWAS meta-analysis. Both CD2AP and FERMT2 have been previously implicated with roles in cell adhesion, and our screen additionally identifies a fly homolog of the human integrin adhesion receptors, ITGAM and ITGA9, as a modifier of Tau neurotoxicity. Our results highlight cell adhesion pathways as important in Tau toxicity and AD susceptibility and demonstrate the power of model organism genetic screens for the functional follow-up of human GWAS.
Chimaeras, fanciful beasts that drew their force from being composed of parts of disparate animals, have stimulated our collective imagination for centuries. In modern terms, chimaeras are composite animals consisting of genetically distinct cell populations and are called "mosaics" if the different cell types have emerged from the same zygote. Phenotypic studies of chimeric animals formed from invertebrates, amphibians, birds, and mammals have provided many fundamental insights into biological processes, most notably in developmental biology. Many methods for generating both chimaeras and a range of markers for tracing their lineages have been developed over the years. Our laboratory has been intimately involved in the development of methods that facilitate the creation of genetic mosaics in Drosophila. Here, we review our contributions to the development of this field and discuss a number of approaches that will improve further the tool kit for generating mosaic animals.
A major objective of systems biology is to organize molecular interactions as networks and to characterize information flow within networks. We describe a computational framework to integrate protein-protein interaction (PPI) networks and genetic screens to predict the 'signs' of interactions (i.e., activation-inhibition relationships). We constructed a Drosophila melanogaster signed PPI network consisting of 6,125 signed PPIs connecting 3,352 proteins that can be used to identify positive and negative regulators of signaling pathways and protein complexes. We identified an unexpected role for the metabolic enzymes enolase and aldo-keto reductase as positive and negative regulators of proteolysis, respectively. Characterization of the activation-inhibition relationships between physically interacting proteins within signaling pathways will affect our understanding of many biological functions, including signal transduction and mechanisms of disease.
Recent evidence indicates that skeletal muscle influences systemic aging, but little is known about the signaling pathways and muscle-released cytokines (myokines) responsible for this intertissue communication. Here, we show that muscle-specific overexpression of the transcription factor Mnt decreases age-related climbing defects and extends lifespan in Drosophila. Mnt overexpression in muscle autonomously decreases the expression of nucleolar components and systemically decreases rRNA levels and the size of the nucleolus in adipocytes. This nonautonomous control of the nucleolus, a regulator of ribosome biogenesis and lifespan, relies on Myoglianin, a myokine induced by Mnt and orthologous to human GDF11 and Myostatin. Myoglianin overexpression in muscle extends lifespan and decreases nucleolar size in adipocytes by activating p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK), whereas Myoglianin RNAi in muscle has converse effects. Altogether, these findings highlight a key role for myokine signaling in the integration of signaling events in muscle and distant tissues during aging.
BACKGROUND: RNA interference (RNAi) is an effective and important tool used to study gene function. For large-scale screens, RNAi is used to systematically down-regulate genes of interest and analyze their roles in a biological process. However, RNAi is associated with off-target effects (OTEs), including microRNA (miRNA)-like OTEs. The contribution of reagent-specific OTEs to RNAi screen data sets can be significant. In addition, the post-screen validation process is time and labor intensive. Thus, the availability of robust approaches to identify candidate off-targeted transcripts would be beneficial. RESULTS: Significant efforts have been made to eliminate false positive results attributable to sequence-specific OTEs associated with RNAi. These approaches have included improved algorithms for RNAi reagent design, incorporation of chemical modifications into siRNAs, and the use of various bioinformatics strategies to identify possible OTEs in screen results. Genome-wide Enrichment of Seed Sequence matches (GESS) was developed to identify potential off-targeted transcripts in large-scale screen data by seed-region analysis. Here, we introduce a user-friendly web application that provides researchers a relatively quick and easy way to perform GESS analysis on data from human or mouse cell-based screens using short interfering RNAs (siRNAs) or short hairpin RNAs (shRNAs), as well as for Drosophila screens using shRNAs. Online GESS relies on up-to-date transcript sequence annotations for human and mouse genes extracted from NCBI Reference Sequence (RefSeq) and Drosophila genes from FlyBase. The tool also accommodates analysis with user-provided reference sequence files. CONCLUSION: Online GESS provides a straightforward user interface for genome-wide seed region analysis for human, mouse and Drosophila RNAi screen data. With the tool, users can either use a built-in database or provide a database of transcripts for analysis. This makes it possible to analyze RNAi data from any organism for which the user can provide transcript sequences.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small noncoding RNAs that regulate gene expression by binding to sequences within the 3' UTR of mRNAs. Because miRNAs bind to short sequences with partial complementarity, target identification is challenging. To complement the existing target prediction algorithms, we devised a systematic "reverse approach" screening platform that allows the empirical prediction of miRNA-target interactions. Using Drosophila cells, we screened the 3' untranslated regions (3' UTRs) of the Hedgehog pathway genes against a genome-wide miRNA library and identified both predicted and many nonpredicted miRNA-target interactions. We demonstrate that miR-14 is essential for maintaining the proper level of Hedgehog signaling activity by regulating its physiological target, hedgehog. Furthermore, elevated levels of miR-14 suppress Hedgehog signaling activity by cotargeting its apparent nonphysiological targets, patched and smoothened. Altogether, our systematic screening platform is a powerful approach to identifying both physiological and apparent nonphysiological targets of miRNAs, which are relevant in both normal and diseased tissues.
Stem cells possess the capacity to generate two cells of distinct fate upon division: one cell retaining stem cell identity and the other cell destined to differentiate. These cell fates are established by cell-type-specific genetic networks. To comprehensively identify components of these networks, we performed a large-scale RNAi screen in Drosophila female germline stem cells (GSCs) covering ∼25% of the genome. The screen identified 366 genes that affect GSC maintenance, differentiation, or other processes involved in oogenesis. Comparison of GSC regulators with neural stem cell self-renewal factors identifies common and cell-type-specific self-renewal genes. Importantly, we identify the histone methyltransferase Set1 as a GSC-specific self-renewal factor. Loss of Set1 in neural stem cells does not affect cell fate decisions, suggesting a differential requirement of H3K4me3 in different stem cell lineages. Altogether, our study provides a resource that will help to further dissect the networks underlying stem cell self-renewal.
Here we report the development of an in vivo system to study the interaction of stem cells with drugs using a tumor model in the adult Drosophila intestine. Strikingly, we find that some Food and Drug Administration-approved chemotherapeutics that can inhibit the growth of Drosophila tumor stem cells can paradoxically promote the hyperproliferation of their wild-type counterparts. These results reveal an unanticipated side effect on stem cells that may contribute to tumor recurrence. We propose that the same side effect may occur in humans based on our finding that it is driven in Drosophila by the evolutionarily conserved Janus kinase-signal transducers and activators of transcription (JAK-STAT) pathway. An immediate implication of our findings is that supplementing traditional chemotherapeutics with anti-inflammatories may reduce tumor recurrence.
Notch1 is a rational therapeutic target in several human cancers, but as a transcriptional regulator, it poses a drug discovery challenge. To identify Notch1 modulators, we performed two cell-based, high-throughput screens for small-molecule inhibitors and cDNA enhancers of a NOTCH1 allele bearing a leukemia-associated mutation. Sarco/endoplasmic reticulum calcium ATPase (SERCA) channels emerged at the intersection of these complementary screens. SERCA inhibition preferentially impairs the maturation and activity of mutated Notch1 receptors and induces a G0/G1 arrest in NOTCH1-mutated human leukemia cells. A small-molecule SERCA inhibitor has on-target activity in two mouse models of human leukemia and interferes with Notch signaling in Drosophila. These studies "credential" SERCA as a therapeutic target in cancers associated with NOTCH1 mutations.