The evaluation of specific endogenous transcript levels is important for understanding transcriptional regulation. More specifically, it is useful for independent confirmation of results obtained by the use of microarray analysis or RNA-seq and for evaluating RNA interference (RNAi)-mediated gene knockdown. Designing specific and effective primers for high-quality, moderate-throughput evaluation of transcript levels, i.e., quantitative, real-time PCR (qPCR), is nontrivial. To meet community needs, predefined qPCR primer pairs for mammalian genes have been designed and sequences made available, e.g., via PrimerBank. In this work, we adapted and refined the algorithms used for the mammalian PrimerBank to design 45,417 primer pairs for 13,860 Drosophila melanogaster genes, with three or more primer pairs per gene. We experimentally validated primer pairs for ~300 randomly selected genes expressed in early Drosophila embryos, using SYBR Green-based qPCR and sequence analysis of products derived from conventional PCR. All relevant information, including primer sequences, isoform specificity, spatial transcript targeting, and any available validation results and/or user feedback, is available from an online database (www.flyrnai.org/flyprimerbank). At FlyPrimerBank, researchers can retrieve primer information for fly genes either one gene at a time or in batch mode. Importantly, we included the overlap of each predicted amplified sequence with RNAi reagents from several public resources, making it possible for researchers to choose primers suitable for knockdown evaluation of RNAi reagents (i.e., to avoid amplification of the RNAi reagent itself). We demonstrate the utility of this resource for validation of RNAi reagents in vivo.
Phosphate is required for many important cellular processes and having too little phosphate or too much can cause disease and reduce life span in humans. However, the mechanisms underlying homeostatic control of extracellular phosphate levels and cellular effects of phosphate are poorly understood. Here, we establish Drosophila melanogaster as a model system for the study of phosphate effects. We found that Drosophila larval development depends on the availability of phosphate in the medium. Conversely, life span is reduced when adult flies are cultured on high phosphate medium or when hemolymph phosphate is increased in flies with impaired malpighian tubules. In addition, RNAi-mediated inhibition of MAPK-signaling by knockdown of Ras85D, phl/D-Raf or Dsor1/MEK affects larval development, adult life span and hemolymph phosphate, suggesting that some in vivo effects involve activation of this signaling pathway by phosphate. To identify novel genetic determinants of phosphate responses, we used Drosophila hemocyte-like cultured cells (S2R+) to perform a genome-wide RNAi screen using MAPK activation as the readout. We identified a number of candidate genes potentially important for the cellular response to phosphate. Evaluation of 51 genes in live flies revealed some that affect larval development, adult life span and hemolymph phosphate levels.
Rotavirus (RV) is the major cause of childhood gastroenteritis worldwide. This study presents a functional genome-scale analysis of cellular proteins and pathways relevant for RV infection using RNAi. Among the 522 proteins selected in the screen for their ability to affect viral infectivity, an enriched group that participates in endocytic processes was identified. Within these proteins, subunits of the vacuolar ATPase, small GTPases, actinin 4, and, of special interest, components of the endosomal sorting complex required for transport (ESCRT) machinery were found. Here we provide evidence for a role of the ESCRT complex in the entry of simian and human RV strains in both monkey and human epithelial cells. In addition, the ESCRT-associated ATPase VPS4A and phospholipid lysobisphosphatidic acid, both crucial for the formation of intralumenal vesicles in multivesicular bodies, were also found to be required for cell entry. Interestingly, it seems that regardless of the molecules that rhesus RV and human RV strains use for cell-surface attachment and the distinct endocytic pathway used, all these viruses converge in early endosomes and use multivesicular bodies for cell entry. Furthermore, the small GTPases RHOA and CDC42, which regulate different types of clathrin-independent endocytosis, as well as early endosomal antigen 1 (EEA1), were found to be involved in this process. This work reports the direct involvement of the ESCRT machinery in the life cycle of a nonenveloped virus and highlights the complex mechanism that these viruses use to enter cells. It also illustrates the efficiency of high-throughput RNAi screenings as genetic tools for comprehensively studying the interaction between viruses and their host cells.
Epidemiological studies in humans suggest that skeletal muscle aging is a risk factor for the development of several age-related diseases such as metabolic syndrome, cancer, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. Here, we review recent studies in mammals and Drosophila highlighting how nutrient- and stress-sensing in skeletal muscle can influence lifespan and overall aging of the organism. In addition to exercise and indirect effects of muscle metabolism, growing evidence suggests that muscle-derived growth factors and cytokines, known as myokines, modulate systemic physiology. Myokines may influence the progression of age-related diseases and contribute to the intertissue communication that underlies systemic aging.
Mitochondrial dysfunction is usually associated with aging. To systematically characterize the compensatory stress signaling cascades triggered in response to muscle mitochondrial perturbation, we analyzed a Drosophila model of muscle mitochondrial injury. We find that mild muscle mitochondrial distress preserves mitochondrial function, impedes the age-dependent deterioration of muscle function and architecture, and prolongs lifespan. Strikingly, this effect is mediated by at least two prolongevity compensatory signaling modules: one involving a muscle-restricted redox-dependent induction of genes that regulate the mitochondrial unfolded protein response (UPR(mt)) and another involving the transcriptional induction of the Drosophila ortholog of insulin-like growth factor-binding protein 7, which systemically antagonizes insulin signaling and facilitates mitophagy. Given that several secreted IGF-binding proteins (IGFBPs) exist in mammals, our work raises the possibility that muscle mitochondrial injury in humans may similarly result in the secretion of IGFBPs, with important ramifications for diseases associated with aberrant insulin signaling.
Signaling proteins often form dynamic protein-protein interaction (PPI) complexes to achieve multi-functionality. Methods to abrogate a subset of PPI interfaces without depleting the full-length protein will be valuable for structure-function relationship annotations. Here, we describe the use of Peptide Aptamer Interference (PAPTi) approach for structure-function network studies. We identified peptide aptamers against Dishevelled (Dsh) and β-catenin (β-cat) to target the Wnt signaling pathway and demonstrate that these FN3-based MONOBODYs (FNDYs) can be used to perturb protein activities both in vitro and in vivo. Further, to investigate the crosstalk between the Wnt and Notch pathways, we isolated FNDYs against the Notch Ankyrin (ANK) region and demonstrate that perturbing the ANK domain of Notch increases the inhibitory activity of Notch towards Wnt signaling. Altogether, these studies demonstrate the power of the PAPTi approach to dissect specific PPI interactions within signaling networks.
Analysis of high-throughput data increasingly relies on pathway annotation and functional information derived from Gene Ontology. This approach has limitations, in particular for the analysis of network dynamics over time or under different experimental conditions, in which modules within a network rather than complete pathways might respond and change. We report an analysis framework based on protein complexes, which are at the core of network reorganization. We generated a protein complex resource for human, Drosophila, and yeast from the literature and databases of protein-protein interaction networks, with each species having thousands of complexes. We developed COMPLEAT (http://www.flyrnai.org/compleat), a tool for data mining and visualization for complex-based analysis of high-throughput data sets, as well as analysis and integration of heterogeneous proteomics and gene expression data sets. With COMPLEAT, we identified dynamically regulated protein complexes among genome-wide RNA interference data sets that used the abundance of phosphorylated extracellular signal-regulated kinase in cells stimulated with either insulin or epidermal growth factor as the output. The analysis predicted that the Brahma complex participated in the insulin response.
Tyrosine phosphorylation plays a significant role in a wide range of cellular processes. The Drosophila genome encodes more than 20 receptor tyrosine kinases and extensive studies in the past 20 years have illustrated their diverse roles and complex signaling mechanisms. Although some receptor tyrosine kinases have highly specific functions, others strikingly are used in rather ubiquitous manners. Receptor tyrosine kinases regulate a broad expanse of processes, ranging from cell survival and proliferation to differentiation and patterning. Remarkably, different receptor tyrosine kinases share many of the same effectors and their hierarchical organization is retained in disparate biological contexts. In this comprehensive review, we summarize what is known regarding each receptor tyrosine kinase during Drosophila development. Astonishingly, very little is known for approximately half of all Drosophila receptor tyrosine kinases.
The way in which cells adopt different morphologies is not fully understood. Cell shape could be a continuous variable or restricted to a set of discrete forms. We developed quantitative methods to describe cell shape and show that Drosophila haemocytes in culture are a heterogeneous mixture of five discrete morphologies. In an RNAi screen of genes affecting the morphological complexity of heterogeneous cell populations, we found that most genes regulate the transition between discrete shapes rather than generating new morphologies. In particular, we identified a subset of genes, including the tumour suppressor PTEN, that decrease the heterogeneity of the population, leading to populations enriched in rounded or elongated forms. We show that these genes have a highly conserved function as regulators of cell shape in both mouse and human metastatic melanoma cells.
RNA interference (RNAi) is a widely adopted tool for loss-of-function studies but RNAi results only have biological relevance if the reagents are appropriately mapped to genes. Several groups have designed and generated RNAi reagent libraries for studies in cells or in vivo for Drosophila and other species. At first glance, matching RNAi reagents to genes appears to be a simple problem, as each reagent is typically designed to target a single gene. In practice, however, the reagent-gene relationship is complex. Although the sequences of oligonucleotides used to generate most types of RNAi reagents are static, the reference genome and gene annotations are regularly updated. Thus, at the time a researcher chooses an RNAi reagent or analyzes RNAi data, the most current interpretation of the RNAi reagent-gene relationship, as well as related information regarding specificity (e.g., predicted off-target effects), can be different from the original interpretation. Here, we describe a set of strategies and an accompanying online tool, UP-TORR (for Updated Targets of RNAi Reagents; www.flyrnai.org/up-torr), useful for accurate and up-to-date annotation of cell-based and in vivo RNAi reagents. Importantly, UP-TORR automatically synchronizes with gene annotations daily, retrieving the most current information available, and for Drosophila, also synchronizes with the major reagent collections. Thus, UP-TORR allows users to choose the most appropriate RNAi reagents at the onset of a study, as well as to perform the most appropriate analyses of results of RNAi-based studies.
Heparan sulfate (HS) proteoglycans play critical roles in a wide variety of biological processes such as growth factor signaling, cell adhesion, wound healing, and tumor metastasis. Functionally important interactions between HS and a variety of proteins depend on specific structural features within the HS chains. The fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) is frequently applied as a model organism to study HS function in development. Previous structural studies of Drosophila HS have been restricted to disaccharide composition, without regard to the arrangement of saccharide domains typically found in vertebrate HS. Here, we biochemically characterized Drosophila HS by selective depolymerization with nitrous acid. Analysis of the generated saccharide products revealed a novel HS design, involving a peripheral, extended, presumably single, N-sulfated domain linked to an N-acetylated sequence contiguous with the linkage to core protein. The N-sulfated domain may be envisaged as a heparin structure of unusually low O-sulfate content.
microRNAs (miRNAs) are endogenous short RNAs that mediate vast networks of post-transcriptional gene regulation. Although computational searches and experimental profiling provide evidence for hundreds of functional targets for individual miRNAs, such data rarely provide clear insight into the phenotypic consequences of manipulating miRNAs in vivo. We describe a genome-wide collection of 165 Drosophila miRNA transgenes and find that a majority induced specific developmental defects, including phenocopies of mutants in myriad cell-signaling and patterning genes. Such connections allowed us to validate several likely targets for miRNA-induced phenotypes. Importantly, few of these phenotypes could be predicted from computationally predicted target lists, thus highlighting the value of whole-animal readouts of miRNA activities. Finally, we provide an example of the relevance of these data to miRNA loss-of-function conditions. Whereas misexpression of several K box miRNAs inhibited Notch pathway activity, reciprocal genetic interaction tests with miRNA sponges demonstrated endogenous roles of the K box miRNA family in restricting Notch signaling. In summary, we provide extensive evidence that misexpression of individual miRNAs often induces specific mutant phenotypes that can guide their functional study. By extension, these data suggest that the deregulation of individual miRNAs in other animals may frequently yield relatively specific phenotypes during disease conditions.
The major facilitator superfamily (MFS) transporter Pho84 and the type III transporter Pho89 are responsible for metabolic effects of inorganic phosphate in yeast. While the Pho89 ortholog Pit1 was also shown to be involved in phosphate-activated MAPK in mammalian cells, it is currently unknown, whether orthologs of Pho84 have a role in phosphate-sensing in metazoan species. We show here that the activation of MAPK by phosphate observed in mammals is conserved in Drosophila cells, and used this assay to characterize the roles of putative phosphate transporters. Surprisingly, while we found that RNAi-mediated knockdown of the fly Pho89 ortholog dPit had little effect on the activation of MAPK in Drosophila S2R+ cells by phosphate, two Pho84/SLC17A1-9 MFS orthologs (MFS10 and MFS13) specifically inhibited this response. Further, using a Xenopus oocyte assay, we show that MSF13 mediates uptake of [(33)P]-orthophosphate in a sodium-dependent fashion. Consistent with a role in phosphate physiology, MSF13 is expressed highest in the Drosophila crop, midgut, Malpighian tubule, and hindgut. Altogether, our findings provide the first evidence that Pho84 orthologs mediate cellular effects of phosphate in metazoan cells. Finally, while phosphate is essential for Drosophila larval development, loss of MFS13 activity is compatible with viability indicating redundancy at the levels of the transporters.
Improving the quality and coverage of the protein interactome is of tantamount importance for biomedical research, particularly given the various sources of uncertainty in high-throughput techniques. We introduce a structure-based framework, Coev2Net, for computing a single confidence score that addresses both false-positive and false-negative rates. Coev2Net is easily applied to thousands of binary protein interactions and has superior predictive performance over existing methods. We experimentally validate selected high-confidence predictions in the human MAPK network and show that predicted interfaces are enriched for cancer -related or damaging SNPs. Coev2Net can be downloaded at http://struct2net.csail.mit.edu.
Regulation of genes that initiate and amplify inflammatory programs of gene expression is achieved by signal-dependent exchange of coregulator complexes that function to read, write, and erase specific histone modifications linked to transcriptional activation or repression. Here, we provide evidence for the role of trimethylated histone H4 lysine 20 (H4K20me3) as a repression checkpoint that restricts expression of toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) target genes in macrophages. H4K20me3 is deposited at the promoters of a subset of these genes by the SMYD5 histone methyltransferase through its association with NCoR corepressor complexes. Signal-dependent erasure of H4K20me3 is required for effective gene activation and is achieved by NF-κB-dependent delivery of the histone demethylase PHF2. Liver X receptors antagonize TLR4-dependent gene activation by maintaining NCoR/SMYD5-mediated repression. These findings reveal a histone H4K20 trimethylation/demethylation strategy that integrates positive and negative signaling inputs that control immunity and homeostasis.
In Drosophila, the fat body (FB), a functional analog of the vertebrate adipose tissue, is the nutrient sensor that conveys the nutrient status to the insulin-producing cells (IPCs) in the fly brain to release Drosophila insulin-like peptides (Dilps). Dilp secretion in turn regulates energy balance and promotes systemic growth. We identify Unpaired 2 (Upd2), a protein with similarities to type I cytokines, as a secreted factor produced by the FB in the fed state. When upd2 function is perturbed specifically in the FB, it results in a systemic reduction in growth and alters energy metabolism. Upd2 activates JAK/STAT signaling in a population of GABAergic neurons that project onto the IPCs. This activation relieves the inhibitory tone of the GABAergic neurons on the IPCs, resulting in the secretion of Dilps. Strikingly, we find that human Leptin can rescue the upd2 mutant phenotypes, suggesting that Upd2 is the functional homolog of Leptin.
FlyRNAi (http://www.flyrnai.org), the database and website of the Drosophila RNAi Screening Center (DRSC) at Harvard Medical School, serves a dual role, tracking both production of reagents for RNA interference (RNAi) screening in Drosophila cells and RNAi screen results. The database and website is used as a platform for community availability of protocols, tools, and other resources useful to researchers planning, conducting, analyzing or interpreting the results of Drosophila RNAi screens. Based on our own experience and user feedback, we have made several changes. Specifically, we have restructured the database to accommodate new types of reagents; added information about new RNAi libraries and other reagents; updated the user interface and website; and added new tools of use to the Drosophila community and others. Overall, the result is a more useful, flexible and comprehensive website and database.
Changes in fat content have been associated with dietary restriction (DR), but whether they play a causal role in mediating various responses to DR remains unknown. We demonstrate that upon DR, Drosophila melanogaster shift their metabolism toward increasing fatty-acid synthesis and breakdown, which is required for various responses to DR. Inhibition of fatty-acid synthesis or oxidation genes specifically in the muscle tissue inhibited life-span extension upon DR. Furthermore, DR enhances spontaneous activity of flies, which was found to be dependent on the enhanced fatty-acid metabolism. This increase in activity was found to be at least partially required for the life-span extension upon DR. Overexpression of adipokinetic hormone (dAKH), the functional ortholog of glucagon, enhances fat metabolism, spontaneous activity, and life span. Together, these results suggest that enhanced fat metabolism in the muscle and physical activity play a key role in the protective effects of DR.
RNA interference (RNAi) leads to sequence-specific knockdown of gene function. The approach can be used in large-scale screens to interrogate function in various model organisms and an increasing number of other species. Genome-scale RNAi screens are routinely performed in cultured or primary cells or in vivo in organisms such as C. elegans. High-throughput RNAi screening is benefitting from the development of sophisticated new instrumentation and software tools for collecting and analyzing data, including high-content image data. The results of large-scale RNAi screens have already proved useful, leading to new understandings of gene function relevant to topics such as infection, cancer, obesity, and aging. Nevertheless, important caveats apply and should be taken into consideration when developing or interpreting RNAi screens. Some level of false discovery is inherent to high-throughput approaches and specific to RNAi screens, false discovery due to off-target effects (OTEs) of RNAi reagents remains a problem. The need to improve our ability to use RNAi to elucidate gene function at large scale and in additional systems continues to be addressed through improved RNAi library design, development of innovative computational and analysis tools and other approaches.
During development, signaling pathways specify cell fates by activating transcriptional programs in response to extracellular signals. Extensive studies in the past 30 years have revealed that surprisingly few pathways exist to regulate developmental programs and that dysregulation of these can lead to human diseases, including cancer. Although these pathways use distinct signaling components and signaling strategies, a number of common themes have emerged regarding their organization and regulation in time and space. Examples from Drosophila, such as Notch, Hedgehog, Wingless/WNT, BMP (bone morphogenetic proteins), EGF (epidermal growth factor), and FGF (fibroblast growth factor) signaling, illustrate their abilities to act either at a short range or over a long distance, and in some instances to generate morphogen gradients that pattern fields of cells in a concentration-dependent manner. They also show how feedback loops and transcriptional cascades are part of the logic of developmental regulation.