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.
A fundamental concept in development is that secreted molecules such as Wingless (Wg) and Hedgehog (Hh) generate pattern by inducing cell fate. By following markers of cellular identity posterior to the Wg- and Hh-expressing cells in the Drosophila dorsal embryonic epidermis, we provide evidence that neither Wg nor Hh specifies the identity of the cell types they pattern. Rather, they maintain pre-existing cellular identities that are otherwise unstable and progress stepwise towards a default fate. Wg and Hh therefore generate pattern by inhibiting specific switches in cell identity, showing that the specification and the patterning of a given cell are uncoupled. Sequential binary decisions without induction of cell identity give rise to both the groove cells and their posterior neighbors. The combination of independent progression of cell identity and arrest of progression by signals facilitates accurate patterning of an extremely plastic developing epidermis.
The existence of vast regulatory networks mediated by microRNAs (miRNAs) suggests broad potential for miRNA dysfunction to contribute to disease. However, relatively few miRNA-target interactions are likely to make detectable contributions to phenotype, and effective strategies to identify these few interactions are currently wanting. We hypothesized that signaling cascades represent critical points of susceptibility to miRNA dysfunction, and we developed a strategy to test this theory by using quantitative cell-based screens. Here we report a screen for miRNAs that affect the Wingless (Wg) pathway, a conserved pathway that regulates growth and tissue specification. This process identified ectopic miR-315 as a potent and specific activator of Wg signaling, an activity that we corroborated in transgenic animals. This miR-315 activity was mediated by direct inhibition of Axin and Notum, which encode essential, negatively acting components of the Wg pathway. Genetic interaction tests substantiated both of these genes as key functional targets of miR-315. The ability of ectopic miR-315 to activate Wg signaling was not a trivial consequence of predicted miRNA-target relationships because other miRNAs with conserved sites in the Axin 3' UTR neither activated Wg outputs nor inhibited an Axin sensor. In summary, activity-based screening can selectively identify miRNAs whose deregulation can lead to interpretable phenotypic consequences.
We have examined the respective contribution of Heparan Sulfate Proteoglycans (HSPGs) and Frizzled (Fz) proteins in the establishment of the Wingless (Wg) morphogen gradient. From the analysis of mutant clones of sulfateless/N-deacetylase-sulphotransferase in the wing imaginal disc, we find that lack of Heparan Sulfate (HS) causes a dramatic reduction of both extracellular and intracellular Wg in receiving cells. Our studies, together with others [Kirkpatrick, C.A., Dimitroff, B.D., Rawson, J.M., Selleck, S.B., 2004. Spatial regulation of Wingless morphogen distribution and signalling by Dally-like protein. Dev. Cell (in press)], reveals that the Glypican molecule Dally-like Protein (Dlp) is associated with both negative and positive roles in Wg short- and long-range signaling, respectively. In addition, analyses of the two Fz proteins indicate that the Fz and DFz2 receptors, in addition to transducing the signal, modulate the slope of the Wg gradient by regulating the amount of extracellular Wg. Taken together, our analysis illustrates how the coordinated activities of HSPGs and Fz/DFz2 shape the Wg morphogen gradient.
Recent studies in Drosophila have shown that heparan sulfate proteoglycans (HSPGs) are required for Wingless (Wg/Wnt) signaling. In addition, genetic and phenotypic analyses have implicated the glypican gene dally in this process. Here, we report the identification of another Drosophila glypican gene, dally-like (dly) and show that it is also involved in Wg signaling. Inhibition of dly gene activity implicates a function for DLY in Wg reception and we show that overexpression of DLY leads to an accumulation of extracellular Wg. We propose that DLY plays a role in the extracellular distribution of Wg. Consistent with this model, a dramatic decrease of extracellular Wg was detected in clones of cells that are deficient in proper glycosaminoglycan biosynthesis. We conclude that HSPGs play an important role in organizing the extracellular distribution of Wg.
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 Drosophila wingless gene (wg) encodes a protein of the Wnt family and is a critical regulator in many developmental processes. Biochemical studies have indicated that heparan sulphate proteoglycans, consisting of a protein core to which heparan sulphate glycosaminoglycans are attached, are important for Wg function. Here we show that, consistent with these findings, the Drosophila gene sulfateless (sfl), which encodes a homologue of vertebrate heparan sulphate N-deacetylase/N-sulphotransferase (an enzyme needed for the modification of heparan sulphate) is essential for Wg signalling. We have identified the product of division abnormally delayed (dally), a glycosyl-phosphatidyl inositol (GPI)-linked glypican, as a heparan sulphate proteoglycan molecule involved in Wg signalling. Our results indicate that Dally may act as a co-receptor for Wg, and that Dally, together with Drosophila Frizzled 2, modulates both short- and long-range activities of Wg.
In Drosophila, planar cell polarity (PCP) signaling is mediated by the receptor Frizzled (Fz) and transduced by Dishevelled (Dsh). Wingless (Wg) signaling also requires Dsh and may utilize DFz2 as a receptor. Using a heterologous system, we show that Dsh is recruited selectively to the membrane by Fz but not DFz2, and this recruitment depends on the DEP domain but not the PDZ domain in Dsh. A mutation in the DEP domain impairs both membrane localization and the function of Dsh in PCP signaling, indicating that translocation is important for function. Further genetic and molecular analyses suggest that conserved domains in Dsh function differently during PCP and Wg signaling, and that divergent intracellular pathways are activated. We propose that Dsh has distinct roles in PCP and Wg signaling. The PCP signal may selectively result in focal Fz activation and asymmetric relocalization of Dsh to the membrane, where Dsh effects cytoskeletal reorganization to orient prehair initiation.
We have identified and characterized a Drosophila gene, which we have named sugarless, that encodes a homologue of vertebrate UDP-glucose dehydrogenase. This enzyme is essential for the biosynthesis of various proteoglycans, and we find that in the absence of both maternal and zygotic activities of this gene, mutant embryos develop with segment polarity phenotypes reminiscent to loss of either Wingless or Hedgehog signaling. To analyze the function of Sugarless in cell-cell interaction processes, we have focused our analysis on its requirement for Wingless signaling in different tissues. We report that sugarless mutations impair signaling by Wingless, suggesting that proteoglycans contribute to the reception of Wingless. We demonstrate that overexpression of Wingless can bypass the requirement for sugarless, suggesting that proteoglycans modulate signaling by Wingless, possibly by limiting its diffusion and thereby facilitating the binding of Wingless to its receptor. We discuss the possibility that tissue-specific regulation of proteoglycans may be involved in regulating both Wingless short- or long-range effects.
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.
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 imaginal discs of Drosophila, which give rise to the adult appendages, are patterned during a period of intense cell proliferation. The specification of differing regions occurs in some cases by subdividing the disc epithelium into lineage compartments. However, in most cases precise boundaries are formed between different cell types without early compartmentalization. One such boundary occurs between the wingless (wg)-expressing cells of the wing margin and the adjacent proneural cells, which give rise to margin sensory bristles. Here we show that this boundary arises in part by a mechanism of 'self-refinement', by which wingless protein (Wg) represses wg expression in adjacent cells. Cells unable to receive the Wg signal do not resolve the boundary between wg-expressing and proneural cells.
The Drosophila gene wingless is a member of the Wnt gene family, a group of genes that are involved in embryonic development and the regulation of cell proliferation. wingless encodes a secreted glycoprotein that plays a role in embryogenesis as well as in the development of adult structures. In the primordia of the adult limbs, the imaginal discs, wingless is expressed in an anterior ventral sector and is required for specification of ventral fate. Ectopic expression of low levels of Wingless in the leg discs leads to partial ventralization and outgrowths of the proximodistal axis. Wingless has thus been proposed to specify ventral fate in a concentration dependent manner (i.e., as a morphogen) and to organize the proximodistal axis. We have extended the analysis of Wingless function in the leg primordium through targeted ectopic expression. We find that Wingless has two functions in the leg disc. In the specification of ventral fate, our data indicate that Wingless does not function as a morphogen but instead appears to collaborate with other factors. In addition to its role in ventral fate specification, Wingless inhibits the commitment of dorsal cells toward a determined state and influences the regulation of proliferation. We propose a model in which Wingless achieves separate functions via spatially regulated mechanisms and discuss the significance of these functions during axial patterning and organization.
Proper spatial expression of the wingless (wg) gene in the Drosophila embryonic epidermis is crucial to intrasegmental patterning. Single cell wide wg expression is initiated at the blastoderm stage in response to combinatorial regulation by the pair rule genes. Later, during gastrulation, when the epidermal expression of the pair rule genes has disappeared, wg becomes regulated by the activity of the segment polarity genes. The segment polarity gene engrailed (en) is expressed in cells adjacent to the wg-expressing cells and is required to maintain wg transcription. Since wg is in turn required to maintain en expression, wg appears to autoregulate its own expression through an endependent paracrine feedback loop. In this paper, we demonstrate that wild-type wg expression requires wg activity during stage 9, prior to its requirement for en maintenance, indicating that wg has an autoregulatory role that is distinct from its paracrine feedback loop through en. In addition, by misexpressing Wg and En in distinct spatial patterns in the epidermis, we find that En is capable of inducing expression from the endogenous wg gene only in immediate adjacent cells which have been exposed to Wg. Furthermore, exogenous Wg expression enables maintenance of endogenous wg transcription in both wg and en mutant embryos. Our results support the model that in the wild-type embryo, wg has an autoregulatory function which is distinct and separable from paracrine regulation via en. We also provide evidence that late, localized Wg expression is crucial for the asymmetric patterning of epidermal cell types as reflected in the larval cuticle.
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.
The determination of specific cell fates and polarity within each segmental unit of the Drosophila embryo involves the products of the segment polarity genes. One of these, wingless (wg), encodes a secreted protein that is homologous to the mammalian proto-oncogene Wnt-1 (refs 4, 5). In the embryonic epidermis, wg is expressed in a single row of cells within each segmental unit, although its activity is required for the correct patterning of most of the epidermis. Initially Wg signals to adjacent posterior cells, maintaining engrailed (en) expression. Later during embryogenesis, wg specifies the differentiation of naked cuticle. Wg signalling functions by inactivating or antagonizing the activity of zestewhite 3 (zw3). We have investigated the requirement in the Wg signal transduction pathway for the three genes armadillo (arm), dishevelled (dsh) and porcupine (porc), all of which have embryonic mutant phenotypes similar to wg. Our results indicate that dsh and porc act upstream of zw3, and arm acts downstream of zw3.