BACKGROUND: Notch-Delta signaling functions across a wide array of animal systems to break symmetry in a sheet of undifferentiated cells and generate cells with different fates, a process known as lateral inhibition. Unlike many other signaling systems, however, since both the ligand and receptor are transmembrane proteins, the activation of Notch by Delta depends strictly on cell-cell contact. Furthermore, the binding of the ligand to the receptor may not be sufficient to induce signaling, since recent work in cell culture suggests that ligand-induced Notch signaling also requires a mechanical pulling force. This tension exposes a cleavage site in Notch that, when cut, activates signaling. Although it is not known if mechanical tension contributes to signaling in vivo, others have suggested that this is how endocytosis of the receptor-ligand complex contributes to the cleavage and activation of Notch. In a similar way, since Notch-mediated lateral inhibition at a distance in the dorsal thorax of the pupal fly is mediated via actin-rich protrusions, it is possible that cytoskeletal forces generated by networks of filamentous actin and non-muscle myosin during cycles of protrusion extension and retraction also contribute to Notch signaling. RESULTS: To test this hypothesis, we carried out a detailed analysis of the role of myosin II-dependent tension in Notch signaling in the developing fly and in cell culture. Using dynamic fluorescence-based reporters of Notch, we found that myosin II is important for signaling in signal sending and receiving cells in both systems-as expected if myosin II-dependent tension across the Notch-Delta complex contributes to Notch activation. While myosin II was found to contribute most to signaling at a distance, it was also required for maximal signaling between adjacent cells that share lateral contacts and for signaling between cells in culture. CONCLUSIONS: Together these results reveal a previously unappreciated role for non-muscle myosin II contractility in Notch signaling, providing further support for the idea that force contributes to the cleavage and activation of Notch in the context of ligand-dependent signaling, and a new paradigm for actomyosin-based mechanosensation.
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.
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.
Ligands stimulate Notch receptors by inducing regulated intramembrane proteolysis (RIP) to produce a transcriptional effector. Notch activation requires unmasking of a metalloprotease cleavage site remote from the site of ligand binding, raising the question of how proteolytic sensitivity is achieved. Here, we show that application of physiologically relevant forces to the Notch1 regulatory switch results in sensitivity to metalloprotease cleavage, and bound ligands induce Notch signal transduction in cells only in the presence of applied mechanical force. Synthetic receptor-ligand systems that remove the native ligand-receptor interaction also activate Notch by inducing proteolysis of the regulatory switch. Together, these studies show that mechanical force exerted by signal-sending cells is required for ligand-induced Notch activation and establish that force-induced proteolysis can act as a mechanism of cellular mechanotransduction.
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.
The establishment and stability of cell fates during development depend on the integration of multiple signals, which ultimately modulate specific patterns of gene expression. While there is ample evidence for this integration at the level of gene regulatory sequences, little is known about its operation at other levels of cellular activity. Wnt and Notch signalling are important elements of the circuitry that regulates gene expression in development and disease. Genetic analysis has suggested that in addition to convergence on the transcription of specific genes, there are modulatory cross-regulatory interactions between these signalling pathways. We report that the nodal point of these interactions is an activity of Notch that regulates the activity and the amount of the active/oncogenic form of Armadillo/beta-catenin. This activity of Notch is independent of that induced upon cleavage of its intracellular domain and which mediates transcription through Su(H)/CBF1. The modulatory function of Notch described here, contributes to the establishment of a robust threshold for Wnt signalling which is likely to play important roles in both normal and pathological situations.
Signaling from the Notch (N) receptor is essential for proper cell-fate determinations and tissue patterning in all metazoans. N signaling requires a presenilin (PS)-dependent transmembrane-cleaving activity that is closely related or identical to the gamma-secretase proteolysis of the amyloid-beta precursor protein (APP) involved in Alzheimer's disease pathogenesis. Here, we show that N-[N-(3,5-difluorophenacetyl)-L-alanyl]-(S)-phenylglycine t-butyl ester, a potent gamma-secretase inhibitor reported to reduce amyloid-beta levels in transgenic mice, prevents N processing, translocation, and signaling in cell culture. This compound also induces developmental defects in Drosophila remarkably similar to those caused by genetic reduction of N. The appearance of this phenocopy depends on the timing and dose of compound exposure, and effects on N-dependent signaling molecules established its biochemical mechanism of action in vivo. Other gamma-secretase inhibitors caused similar effects. Thus, the three-dimensional structure of the drug-binding site(s) in Drosophila gamma-secretase is remarkably conserved vis-à-vis the same site(s) in the mammalian enzyme. These results show that genetics and developmental biology can help elucidate the in vivo site of action of pharmacological agents and suggest that organisms such as Drosophila may be used as simple models for in vivo prescreening of drug candidates.
Notch signalling, which is highly conserved from nematodes to mammals, plays crucial roles in many developmental processes. In the Drosophila embryo, deficiency in Notch signalling results in neural hyperplasia, commonly referred to as the neurogenic phenotype. We identify a novel maternal neurogenic gene, neurotic, and show that it is essential for Notch signalling. neurotic encodes a Drosophila homolog of mammalian GDP-fucose protein O-fucosyltransferase, which adds fucose sugar to epidermal growth factor-like repeats and is known to play a crucial role in Notch signalling. neurotic functions in a cell-autonomous manner, and genetic epistasis tests reveal that Neurotic is required for the activity of the full-length but not an activated form of Notch. Further, we show that neurotic is required for Fringe activity, which encodes a fucose-specific beta1, 3 N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase, previously shown to modulate Notch receptor activity. Finally, Neurotic is essential for the physical interaction of Notch with its ligand Delta, and for the ability of Fringe to modulate this interaction in Drosophila cultured cells. We present an unprecedented example of an absolute requirement of a protein glycosylation event for a ligand-receptor interaction. Our results suggest that O-fucosylation catalysed by Neurotic is also involved in the Fringe-independent activities of Notch and may provide a novel on-off mechanism that regulates ligand-receptor interactions.
In Drosophila, the Wingless and Notch signaling pathways function in m any of the same developmental patterning events. Genetic analysis demonstrates that the dishevelled gene, which encodes a molecule previously implicated in implementation of the Winglass signal, interacts antagonistically with Notch and one of its known ligands, Delta. A direct physical interaction between Dishevelled and the Notch carboxyl terminus, distal to the cdc10/ankyrin repeats, suggests a mechanism for this interaction. It is proposed that Dishevelled, in addition to transducing the Wingless signal, blocks Notch signaling directly, thus providing a molecular mechanism for the inhibitory cross talk observed between these pathways.