The rapid rise of CRISPR as a technology for genome engineering and related research applications has created a need for algorithms and associated online tools that facilitate design of on-target and effective guide RNAs (gRNAs). Here, we review the state-of-the-art in CRISPR gRNA design for research applications of the CRISPR-Cas9 system, including knockout, activation and inhibition. Notably, achieving good gRNA design is not solely dependent on innovations in CRISPR technology. Good design and design tools also rely on availability of high-quality genome sequence and gene annotations, as well as on availability of accumulated data regarding off-targets and effectiveness metrics. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Many organisms have developed a robust ability to adapt and survive in the face of environmental perturbations that threaten the integrity of their genome, proteome, or metabolome. Studies in multiple model organisms have shown that, in general, when exposed to stress, cells activate a complex prosurvival signaling network that includes immune and DNA damage response genes, chaperones, antioxidant enzymes, structural proteins, metabolic enzymes, and noncoding RNAs. The manner of activation runs the gamut from transcriptional induction of genes to increased stability of transcripts to posttranslational modification of important biosynthetic proteins within the stressed tissue. Superimposed on these largely autonomous effects are nonautonomous responses in which the stressed tissue secretes peptides and other factors that stimulate tissues in different organs to embark on processes that ultimately help the organism as a whole cope with stress. This review focuses on the mechanisms by which tissues in one organ adapt to environmental challenges by regulating stress responses in tissues of different organs.
Drosophila can exhibit classic hallmarks of cancer, such as evasion of apoptosis, sustained proliferation, metastasis, prolonged survival, genome instability, and metabolic reprogramming, when cancer-related genes are perturbed. In the last two decades, studies in flies have identified several tumor suppressor and oncogenes. However, the greatest strength of the fly lies in its ability to model cancer hallmarks in a variety of tissue types, which enables the study of context-dependent tumorigenesis. We review the organs and tissues that have been used to model tumor formation, and propose new strategies to maximize the potential of Drosophila in cancer research.
RNA interference (RNAi) triggered by synthetic long double-stranded RNAs (dsRNAs) has been applied in many Drosophila cell lines to study the functions of individual genes or for genome-wide scans. One contributor to the popularity of this approach is that many fly cell lines spontaneously take up dsRNAs from media, obviating the need for assisted uptake methods such as transfection. In this protocol, RNAi is induced in Drosophila S2 cells by soaking with dsRNA. Cell lines other than S2 can also be used, although the ability of each line to passively take up dsRNA does vary. Therefore, the efficiency of passive uptake should be carefully verified for each line.
BACKGROUND: The loss of skeletal muscle mass (atrophy) that accompanies disuse and systemic diseases is highly debilitating. Although the pathogenesis of this condition has been primarily studied in mammals, Drosophila is emerging as an attractive system to investigate some of the mechanisms involved in muscle growth and atrophy. RESULTS: In this review, we highlight the outstanding unsolved questions that may benefit from a combination of studies in both flies and mammals. In particular, we discuss how different environmental stimuli and signaling pathways influence muscle mass and strength and how a variety of disease states can cause muscle wasting. CONCLUSIONS: Studies in Drosophila and mammals should help identify molecular targets for the treatment of muscle wasting in humans.
Over the past decade, numerous reports have underscored the similarities between the metabolism of Drosophila and vertebrates, with the identification of evolutionarily conserved enzymes and analogous organs that regulate carbohydrate and lipid metabolism. It is now well established that the major metabolic, energy-sensing and endocrine signaling networks of vertebrate systems are also conserved in flies. Accordingly, studies in Drosophila are beginning to unravel how perturbed energy balance impinges on lifespan and on the ensuing diseases when energy homeostasis goes awry. Here, we highlight several emerging concepts that are at the nexus between obesity, nutrient sensing, metabolic homeostasis and aging. Specifically, we summarize the endocrine mechanisms that regulate carbohydrate and lipid metabolism, and provide an overview of the neuropeptides that regulate feeding behavior. We further describe the various efforts at modeling the effects of high-fat or -sugar diets in Drosophila and the signaling mechanisms involved in integrating organ function. Finally, we draw attention to some of the cardinal discoveries made with these disease models and how these could spur new research questions in vertebrate systems.
Drosophila melanogaster has become a system of choice for functional genomic studies. Many resources, including online databases and software tools, are now available to support design or identification of relevant fly stocks and reagents or analysis and mining of existing functional genomic, transcriptomic, proteomic, etc. datasets. These include large community collections of fly stocks and plasmid clones, "meta" information sites like FlyBase and FlyMine, and an increasing number of more specialized reagents, databases, and online tools. Here, we introduce key resources useful to plan large-scale functional genomics studies in Drosophila and to analyze, integrate, and mine the results of those studies in ways that facilitate identification of highest-confidence results and generation of new hypotheses. We also discuss ways in which existing resources can be used and might be improved and suggest a few areas of future development that would further support large- and small-scale studies in Drosophila and facilitate use of Drosophila information by the research community more generally.
Gene silencing through sequence-specific targeting of mRNAs by RNAi has enabled genome-wide functional screens in cultured cells and in vivo in model organisms. These screens have resulted in the identification of new cellular pathways and potential drug targets. Considerable progress has been made to improve the quality of RNAi screen data through the development of new experimental and bioinformatics approaches. The recent availability of genome-editing strategies, such as the CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats)-Cas9 system, when combined with RNAi, could lead to further improvements in screen data quality and follow-up experiments, thus promoting our understanding of gene function and gene regulatory networks.
Drosophila melanogaster follicle stem cells are controlled by Wingless (Wg) ligands secreted 50 µm away, raising the question of how long-distance Wg spreading occurs. In this issue of JCB, Wang and Page-McCaw (2014. J. Cell Biol. http://dx.doi.org/10.1083/jcb.201403084) demonstrate a potential mechanism by which the heparan sulfate proteoglycan Dally-like (Dlp) promotes Wg travel, whereas matrix Mmp2 (Metalloproteinase 2) impedes it by inactivating Dlp.
The development and maintenance of the many different cell types in metazoan organisms requires robust and diverse intercellular communication mechanisms. Relatively few such signaling pathways have been identified, leading to the question of how such a broad diversity of output is generated from relatively simple signals. Recent studies have revealed complex mechanisms integrating temporal and spatial information to generate diversity in signaling pathway output. We review some general principles of signaling pathways, focusing on transcriptional outputs in Drosophila. We consider the role of spatial and temporal aspects of different transduction pathways and then discuss how recently developed tools and approaches are helping to dissect the complex mechanisms linking pathway stimulation to output.
The use of genome-wide proteomic and RNA interference approaches has moved our understanding of signal transduction from linear pathways to highly integrated networks centered on core nodes. However, probing the dynamics of flow of information through such networks remains technically challenging. In particular, how the temporal dynamics of an individual pathway can elicit distinct outcomes in a single cell type and how multiple pathways may interact sequentially or synchronously to influence cell fate remain open questions in many contexts. The development of fluorescence-based reporters and optogenetic regulators of pathway activity enables the analysis of signaling in living cells and organisms with unprecedented spatiotemporal resolution and holds the promise of addressing these key questions. We present a brief overview of the evidence for the importance of temporal dynamics in cellular regulation, introduce these fluorescence-based tools, and highlight specific studies that leveraged these tools to probe the dynamics of information flow through signaling networks. In particular, we highlight two studies in Caenorhabditis elegans sensory neurons and cultured mammalian cells that demonstrate the importance of signal dynamics in determining cellular responses.
A characteristic feature of aged humans and other mammals is the debilitating, progressive loss of skeletal muscle function and mass that is known as sarcopenia. Age-related muscle dysfunction occurs to an even greater extent during the relatively short lifespan of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. Studies in model organisms indicate that sarcopenia is driven by a combination of muscle tissue extrinsic and intrinsic factors, and that it fundamentally differs from the rapid atrophy of muscles observed following disuse and fasting. Extrinsic changes in innervation, stem cell function and endocrine regulation of muscle homeostasis contribute to muscle aging. In addition, organelle dysfunction and compromised protein homeostasis are among the primary intrinsic causes. Some of these age-related changes can in turn contribute to the induction of compensatory stress responses that have a protective role during muscle aging. In this Review, we outline how studies in Drosophila and mammalian model organisms can each provide distinct advantages to facilitate the understanding of this complex multifactorial condition and how they can be used to identify suitable therapies.
In Drosophila cells, RNA interference (RNAi) can be triggered by synthetic long double-stranded RNAs (dsRNAs). For many Drosophila cell lines and cell types, passive dsRNA uptake is inefficient. More complete silencing responses can often be obtained in Drosophila S2 cells using transfection, perhaps because higher levels of intracellular dsRNA are achieved. In this protocol, S2 cells are transfected with dsRNA using QIAGEN's Effectene reagent, which has proven to be reliable for many investigators. A plasmid DNA can also be included in the transfection mix to provide additional functionality. The plasmid DNA can encode, for example, a reporter of the activity of a pathway or specific transcription factor, or a marker that allows visualization of some cellular behavior or structure. It is also useful to include a plasmid that encodes a fluorescent protein simply to monitor transfection efficiency.
The fruit fly Drosophila has contributed significantly to our general understanding of the basic principles of signaling, cell and developmental biology, and neurobiology. However, answers to questions pertaining to energy metabolism have been so far mostly addressed in more complex model organisms such as mice. We review in this article recent studies that show how the genetic tractability and simplicity of Drosophila are being used to identify novel regulatory mechanisms at the organismal level, and to query the co-ordination between energy metabolism and other processes such as neurodegeneration, circadian rhythms, immunity, and tumor biology.
Epidemiological studies in humans suggest that skeletal muscle aging is a risk factor for the development of several age-related diseases such as metabolic syndrome, cancer, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. Here, we review recent studies in mammals and Drosophila highlighting how nutrient- and stress-sensing in skeletal muscle can influence lifespan and overall aging of the organism. In addition to exercise and indirect effects of muscle metabolism, growing evidence suggests that muscle-derived growth factors and cytokines, known as myokines, modulate systemic physiology. Myokines may influence the progression of age-related diseases and contribute to the intertissue communication that underlies systemic aging.
RNA interference (RNAi) leads to sequence-specific knockdown of gene function. The approach can be used in large-scale screens to interrogate function in various model organisms and an increasing number of other species. Genome-scale RNAi screens are routinely performed in cultured or primary cells or in vivo in organisms such as C. elegans. High-throughput RNAi screening is benefitting from the development of sophisticated new instrumentation and software tools for collecting and analyzing data, including high-content image data. The results of large-scale RNAi screens have already proved useful, leading to new understandings of gene function relevant to topics such as infection, cancer, obesity, and aging. Nevertheless, important caveats apply and should be taken into consideration when developing or interpreting RNAi screens. Some level of false discovery is inherent to high-throughput approaches and specific to RNAi screens, false discovery due to off-target effects (OTEs) of RNAi reagents remains a problem. The need to improve our ability to use RNAi to elucidate gene function at large scale and in additional systems continues to be addressed through improved RNAi library design, development of innovative computational and analysis tools and other approaches.
Here we describe a method for preparing and culturing primary cells dissociated from Drosophila gastrula embryos. In brief, a large amount of staged embryos from young and healthy flies are collected, sterilized, and then physically dissociated into a single cell suspension using a glass homogenizer. After being plated on culture plates or chamber slides at an appropriate density in culture medium, these cells can further differentiate into several morphologically-distinct cell types, which can be identified by their specific cell markers. Furthermore, we present conditions for treating these cells with double stranded (ds) RNAs to elicit gene knockdown. Efficient RNAi in Drosophila primary cells is accomplished by simply bathing the cells in dsRNA-containing culture medium. The ability to carry out effective RNAi perturbation, together with other molecular, biochemical, cell imaging analyses, will allow a variety of questions to be answered in Drosophila primary cells, especially those related to differentiated muscle and neuronal cells.
Current studies of physiological communication between Drosophila organs are beginning to address the fundamental problem of how nutrients regulate organismal growth, stem cell behavior, immunity, and aging. Advances in the Drosophila genetic tool kit will allow the design of genetic screens to systematically identify factors involved in organ communication.