We have characterized mutations in the Drosophila homolog of the mammalian proto-oncogene c-Jun gene (Djun). We demonstrate that DJUN in the embryo is a downstream target of the JNK signal transduction pathway during dorsal closure formation, and that the function of the JNK/DJUN pathway is to control the localized expression of decapentalegic (dpp), a member of the TGF-beta growth factor family. In contrast to previous observations, we find that both in the embryo and during photoreceptor cell determination, DJUN is not regulated by a pathway that involves MAPK.
By means of low-stringency cross-species hybridization to Southern DNA blots, human c-jun sequences were used to identify a unique Drosophila melanogaster locus (Djun). The predicted DJun protein is highly homologous to members of the mammalian Jun family in both the DNA binding and leucine zipper regions. Djun was mapped by in situ hybridization to position 46E of the second chromosome. It encodes a 1.7-kilobase transcript constitutively expressed at all developmental stages. Functionally, Djun in cooperation with mouse c-fos can trans-activate activator protein 1 DNA binding site when introduced into mammalian cells. Taken together, these data suggest that Djun, much like its mammalian homolog, may activate transcription of genes involved in regulation of cell growth, differentiation, and development. Furthermore, the identification of Djun allows one to exploit the genetics of Drosophila to identify genes in signal transduction pathways involving Djun and thus c-jun.