Using a Drosophila model of Alzheimer's disease (AD), we systematically evaluated 67 candidate genes based on AD-associated genomic loci (P < 10(-4)) from published human genome-wide association studies (GWAS). Genetic manipulation of 87 homologous fly genes was tested for modulation of neurotoxicity caused by human Tau, which forms neurofibrillary tangle pathology in AD. RNA interference (RNAi) targeting 9 genes enhanced Tau neurotoxicity, and in most cases reciprocal activation of gene expression suppressed Tau toxicity. Our screen implicates cindr, the fly ortholog of the human CD2AP AD susceptibility gene, as a modulator of Tau-mediated disease mechanisms. Importantly, we also identify the fly orthologs of FERMT2 and CELF1 as Tau modifiers, and these loci have been independently validated as AD susceptibility loci in the latest GWAS meta-analysis. Both CD2AP and FERMT2 have been previously implicated with roles in cell adhesion, and our screen additionally identifies a fly homolog of the human integrin adhesion receptors, ITGAM and ITGA9, as a modifier of Tau neurotoxicity. Our results highlight cell adhesion pathways as important in Tau toxicity and AD susceptibility and demonstrate the power of model organism genetic screens for the functional follow-up of human GWAS.
Chimaeras, fanciful beasts that drew their force from being composed of parts of disparate animals, have stimulated our collective imagination for centuries. In modern terms, chimaeras are composite animals consisting of genetically distinct cell populations and are called "mosaics" if the different cell types have emerged from the same zygote. Phenotypic studies of chimeric animals formed from invertebrates, amphibians, birds, and mammals have provided many fundamental insights into biological processes, most notably in developmental biology. Many methods for generating both chimaeras and a range of markers for tracing their lineages have been developed over the years. Our laboratory has been intimately involved in the development of methods that facilitate the creation of genetic mosaics in Drosophila. Here, we review our contributions to the development of this field and discuss a number of approaches that will improve further the tool kit for generating mosaic animals.
A major objective of systems biology is to organize molecular interactions as networks and to characterize information flow within networks. We describe a computational framework to integrate protein-protein interaction (PPI) networks and genetic screens to predict the 'signs' of interactions (i.e., activation-inhibition relationships). We constructed a Drosophila melanogaster signed PPI network consisting of 6,125 signed PPIs connecting 3,352 proteins that can be used to identify positive and negative regulators of signaling pathways and protein complexes. We identified an unexpected role for the metabolic enzymes enolase and aldo-keto reductase as positive and negative regulators of proteolysis, respectively. Characterization of the activation-inhibition relationships between physically interacting proteins within signaling pathways will affect our understanding of many biological functions, including signal transduction and mechanisms of disease.
Recent evidence indicates that skeletal muscle influences systemic aging, but little is known about the signaling pathways and muscle-released cytokines (myokines) responsible for this intertissue communication. Here, we show that muscle-specific overexpression of the transcription factor Mnt decreases age-related climbing defects and extends lifespan in Drosophila. Mnt overexpression in muscle autonomously decreases the expression of nucleolar components and systemically decreases rRNA levels and the size of the nucleolus in adipocytes. This nonautonomous control of the nucleolus, a regulator of ribosome biogenesis and lifespan, relies on Myoglianin, a myokine induced by Mnt and orthologous to human GDF11 and Myostatin. Myoglianin overexpression in muscle extends lifespan and decreases nucleolar size in adipocytes by activating p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK), whereas Myoglianin RNAi in muscle has converse effects. Altogether, these findings highlight a key role for myokine signaling in the integration of signaling events in muscle and distant tissues during aging.
BACKGROUND: RNA interference (RNAi) is an effective and important tool used to study gene function. For large-scale screens, RNAi is used to systematically down-regulate genes of interest and analyze their roles in a biological process. However, RNAi is associated with off-target effects (OTEs), including microRNA (miRNA)-like OTEs. The contribution of reagent-specific OTEs to RNAi screen data sets can be significant. In addition, the post-screen validation process is time and labor intensive. Thus, the availability of robust approaches to identify candidate off-targeted transcripts would be beneficial. RESULTS: Significant efforts have been made to eliminate false positive results attributable to sequence-specific OTEs associated with RNAi. These approaches have included improved algorithms for RNAi reagent design, incorporation of chemical modifications into siRNAs, and the use of various bioinformatics strategies to identify possible OTEs in screen results. Genome-wide Enrichment of Seed Sequence matches (GESS) was developed to identify potential off-targeted transcripts in large-scale screen data by seed-region analysis. Here, we introduce a user-friendly web application that provides researchers a relatively quick and easy way to perform GESS analysis on data from human or mouse cell-based screens using short interfering RNAs (siRNAs) or short hairpin RNAs (shRNAs), as well as for Drosophila screens using shRNAs. Online GESS relies on up-to-date transcript sequence annotations for human and mouse genes extracted from NCBI Reference Sequence (RefSeq) and Drosophila genes from FlyBase. The tool also accommodates analysis with user-provided reference sequence files. CONCLUSION: Online GESS provides a straightforward user interface for genome-wide seed region analysis for human, mouse and Drosophila RNAi screen data. With the tool, users can either use a built-in database or provide a database of transcripts for analysis. This makes it possible to analyze RNAi data from any organism for which the user can provide transcript sequences.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small noncoding RNAs that regulate gene expression by binding to sequences within the 3' UTR of mRNAs. Because miRNAs bind to short sequences with partial complementarity, target identification is challenging. To complement the existing target prediction algorithms, we devised a systematic "reverse approach" screening platform that allows the empirical prediction of miRNA-target interactions. Using Drosophila cells, we screened the 3' untranslated regions (3' UTRs) of the Hedgehog pathway genes against a genome-wide miRNA library and identified both predicted and many nonpredicted miRNA-target interactions. We demonstrate that miR-14 is essential for maintaining the proper level of Hedgehog signaling activity by regulating its physiological target, hedgehog. Furthermore, elevated levels of miR-14 suppress Hedgehog signaling activity by cotargeting its apparent nonphysiological targets, patched and smoothened. Altogether, our systematic screening platform is a powerful approach to identifying both physiological and apparent nonphysiological targets of miRNAs, which are relevant in both normal and diseased tissues.
Stem cells possess the capacity to generate two cells of distinct fate upon division: one cell retaining stem cell identity and the other cell destined to differentiate. These cell fates are established by cell-type-specific genetic networks. To comprehensively identify components of these networks, we performed a large-scale RNAi screen in Drosophila female germline stem cells (GSCs) covering ∼25% of the genome. The screen identified 366 genes that affect GSC maintenance, differentiation, or other processes involved in oogenesis. Comparison of GSC regulators with neural stem cell self-renewal factors identifies common and cell-type-specific self-renewal genes. Importantly, we identify the histone methyltransferase Set1 as a GSC-specific self-renewal factor. Loss of Set1 in neural stem cells does not affect cell fate decisions, suggesting a differential requirement of H3K4me3 in different stem cell lineages. Altogether, our study provides a resource that will help to further dissect the networks underlying stem cell self-renewal.
Here we report the development of an in vivo system to study the interaction of stem cells with drugs using a tumor model in the adult Drosophila intestine. Strikingly, we find that some Food and Drug Administration-approved chemotherapeutics that can inhibit the growth of Drosophila tumor stem cells can paradoxically promote the hyperproliferation of their wild-type counterparts. These results reveal an unanticipated side effect on stem cells that may contribute to tumor recurrence. We propose that the same side effect may occur in humans based on our finding that it is driven in Drosophila by the evolutionarily conserved Janus kinase-signal transducers and activators of transcription (JAK-STAT) pathway. An immediate implication of our findings is that supplementing traditional chemotherapeutics with anti-inflammatories may reduce tumor recurrence.
Our ability to modify the Drosophila genome has recently been revolutionized by the development of the CRISPR system. The simplicity and high efficiency of this system allows its widespread use for many different applications, greatly increasing the range of genome modification experiments that can be performed. Here, we first discuss some general design principles for genome engineering experiments in Drosophila and then present detailed protocols for the production of CRISPR reagents and screening strategies to detect successful genome modification events in both tissue culture cells and animals.
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.
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 intestine has evolved under constant environmental stresses, because an animal may ingest harmful pathogens or chemicals at any time during its lifespan. Following damage, intestinal stem cells (ISCs) regenerate the intestine by proliferating to replace dying cells. ISCs from diverse animals are remarkably similar, and the Wnt, Notch, and Hippo signaling pathways, important regulators of mammalian ISCs, are conserved from flies to humans. Unexpectedly, we identified the transcription factor period, a component of the circadian clock, to be critical for regeneration, which itself follows a circadian rhythm. We discovered hundreds of transcripts that are regulated by the clock during intestinal regeneration, including components of stress response and regeneration pathways. Disruption of clock components leads to arrhythmic ISC divisions, revealing their underappreciated role in the healing process.
Regulation of cell growth is a fundamental process in development and disease that integrates a vast array of extra- and intracellular information. A central player in this process is RNA polymerase I (Pol I), which transcribes ribosomal RNA (rRNA) genes in the nucleolus. Rapidly growing cancer cells are characterized by increased Pol I-mediated transcription and, consequently, nucleolar hypertrophy. To map the genetic network underlying the regulation of nucleolar size and of Pol I-mediated transcription, we performed comparative, genome-wide loss-of-function analyses of nucleolar size in Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Drosophila melanogaster coupled with mass spectrometry-based analyses of the ribosomal DNA (rDNA) promoter. With this approach, we identified a set of conserved and nonconserved molecular complexes that control nucleolar size. Furthermore, we characterized a direct role of the histone information regulator (HIR) complex in repressing rRNA transcription in yeast. Our study provides a full-genome, cross-species analysis of a nuclear subcompartment and shows that this approach can identify conserved molecular modules.
RNAi is an evolutionarily conserved gene regulatory process that operates in a wide variety of organisms. During RNAi, long double-stranded RNA precursors are processed by Dicer proteins into ∼21-nt siRNAs. Subsequently, siRNAs are incorporated into the RNA-induced silencing complexes (RISCs) that contain Argonaute-family proteins and guide RISC to target RNAs via complementary base pairing, leading to posttranscriptional gene silencing. Select pre-mRNA splicing factors have been implicated in RNAi in fission yeast, worms, and flies, but the underlying molecular mechanisms are not well understood. Here, we show that SmD1, a core component of the Drosophila small nuclear ribonucleoprotein particle implicated in splicing, is required for RNAi and antiviral immunity in cultured cells and in vivo. SmD1 interacts with both Dicer-2 and dsRNA precursors and is indispensable for optimal siRNA biogenesis. Depletion of SmD1 impairs the assembly and function of the small interfering RISC without significantly affecting the expression of major canonical siRNA pathway components. Moreover, SmD1 physically and functionally associates with components of the small interfering RISC, including Argonaute 2, both in flies and in humans. Notably, RNAi defects resulting from SmD1 silencing can be uncoupled from defects in pre-mRNA splicing, and the RNAi and splicing machineries are physically and functionally distinct entities. Our results suggest that Drosophila SmD1 plays a direct role in RNAi-mediated gene silencing independently of its pre-mRNA splicing activity and indicate that the dual roles of splicing factors in posttranscriptional gene regulation may be evolutionarily widespread.
The Hippo pathway controls metazoan organ growth by regulating cell proliferation and apoptosis. Many components have been identified, but our knowledge of the composition and structure of this pathway is still incomplete. Using existing pathway components as baits, we generated by mass spectrometry a high-confidence Drosophila Hippo protein-protein interaction network (Hippo-PPIN) consisting of 153 proteins and 204 interactions. Depletion of 67% of the proteins by RNA interference regulated the transcriptional coactivator Yorkie (Yki) either positively or negatively. We selected for further characterization a new member of the alpha-arrestin family, Leash, and show that it promotes degradation of Yki through the lysosomal pathway. Given the importance of the Hippo pathway in tumor development, the Hippo-PPIN will contribute to our understanding of this network in both normal growth and cancer.
A fundamental question in developmental biology is how tissue growth and patterning are coordinately regulated to generate complex organs with characteristic shapes and sizes. We showed that in the developing primordium that produces the Drosophila adult trachea, the homeobox transcription factor Cut regulates both growth and patterning, and its effects depend on its abundance. Quantification of the abundance of Cut in the developing airway progenitors during late larval stage 3 revealed that the cells of the developing trachea had different amounts of Cut, with the most proliferative region having an intermediate amount of Cut and the region lacking Cut exhibiting differentiation. By manipulating Cut abundance, we showed that Cut functioned in different regions to regulate proliferation or patterning. Transcriptional profiling of progenitor populations with different amounts of Cut revealed the Wingless (known as Wnt in vertebrates) and Notch signaling pathways as positive and negative regulators of cut expression, respectively. Furthermore, we identified the gene encoding the receptor Breathless (Btl, known as fibroblast growth factor receptor in vertebrates) as a transcriptional target of Cut. Cut inhibited btl expression and tracheal differentiation to maintain the developing airway cells in a progenitor state. Thus, Cut functions in the integration of patterning and growth in a developing epithelial tissue.