The Drosophila segment polarity gene product Porcupine (Porc) was first identified as being necessary for processing Wingless (Wg), a Drosophila Wnt (Wnt) family member. Mouse and Xenopus homologs of porc (Mporc and Xporc) were identified and found to encode endoplasmic reticulum (ER) proteins with multiple transmembrane domains. In contrast with porc, four different types of Mporc and Xporc mRNA (A-D) are generated from a single gene by alternative splicing. Mporc mRNA is differentially expressed during embryogenesis and in various adult tissues, demonstrating that the alternative splicing is regulated to synthesize the specific types of Mporc. In transfected mammalian cells, all Mporc types affect the processing of mouse Wnt 1, 3A, 4, 6, and 7B but not 5A. Furthermore, all Mporc types are co-immunoprecipitated with various Wnt proteins. These results suggest that Mporc may function as a chaperone-like molecule for Wnt. Interestingly, all Mporc types can substitute for Porc, as they are able to rescue the phenotypes of Drosophila porc embryos. Consistent with this observation, Mporc, like Porc, modifies the processing of Wg expressed in mammalian cells. These results demonstrate that the porc gene family encodes the multitransmembrane ER proteins, which are evolutionarily well conserved and involved in processing the Wnt family.
The Wnt protein Wingless (Wg) functions as a signal in patterning of both the Drosophila embryo and imaginal discs. Lack of porcupine (porc) activity is associated with mutant phenotypes similar to those of wg mutations. In porc mutant embryos, Wg protein is confined to the cells that produce it, suggesting that Porc plays a role in processing or secretion of Wg. porc encodes a novel transmembrane protein that appears to be concentrated at the endoplasmic reticulum. We present both genetic and in vitro evidence demonstrating that porc is involved specifically in the processing of Wg. We identified a human sequence related to Porc suggesting the existence of a family of proteins involved in processing of Wnts.
The Drosophila segment polarity gene wingless (wg) is required in the regulation of engrailed (en) expression and the determination of cell fates in neighboring cells. This paracrine wg activity also regulates transcription of wg itself, through a positive feedback loop including en activity. In addition, wg has a second, more direct autoregulatory requirement that is distinct from the en-dependent feedback loop. Four gene products, encoded by armadillo (arm), dishevelled (dsh), porcupine (porc) and zeste-white 3 (zw3), have been previously implicated as components of wg paracrine signaling. Here we have used three different assays to assess the requirements of these genes in the more direct wg autoregulatory pathway. While the activities of dsh, zw3 and arm appear to be specific to the paracrine feedback pathway, the more direct autoregulatory pathway requires porc.
We have characterized the molecular nature of mutations in wingless (wg), a segment polarity gene acting during various stages of Drosophila development. Embryo-lethal alleles have undergone mutations in the protein-encoding domain of the gene, including deletions and point mutations of conserved residues. In a temperature sensitive mutation, a conserved cysteine residue is replaced by a serine. In embryo-viable alleles, the wg transcriptional unit is not affected. Immunostaining of mutant embryos shows that the embryo-lethal alleles produce either no wg antigen or a form of the protein that is retained within cells. Interestingly, embryos mutant for the segment polarity gene porcupine show a similar retention of the wg antigen. We have also transfected wild type wg alleles into Drosophila tissue culture cells, which then display wg protein on the cell surface and in the extracellular matrix. In similar experiments with mutant alleles, the proteins are retained in intracellular compartments and appear not to be secreted. These data provide further evidence that wg acts as a secreted factor and suggest that porcupine provides an accessory function for wg protein secretion or transport.