In multicellular organisms, cell number is typically determined by a balance of intracellular signals that positively and negatively regulate cell survival and proliferation. Dissecting these signaling networks facilitates the understanding of normal development and tumorigenesis. Here, we study signaling by the Drosophila PDGF/VEGF Receptor (Pvr) in embryonic blood cells (hemocytes) and in the related cell line Kc as a model for the requirement of PDGF/VEGF receptors in vertebrate cell survival and proliferation. The system allows the investigation of downstream and parallel signaling networks, based on the ability of Pvr to activate Ras/Erk, Akt/TOR, and yet-uncharacterized signaling pathway/s, which redundantly mediate cell survival and contribute to proliferation. Using Kc cells, we performed a genome wide RNAi screen for regulators of cell number in a sensitized, Pvr deficient background. We identified the receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) Insulin-like receptor (InR) as a major Pvr Enhancer, and the nuclear hormone receptors Ecdysone receptor (EcR) and ultraspiracle (usp), corresponding to mammalian Retinoid X Receptor (RXR), as Pvr Suppressors. In vivo analysis in the Drosophila embryo revealed a previously unrecognized role for EcR to promote apoptotic death of embryonic blood cells, which is balanced with pro-survival signaling by Pvr and InR. Phosphoproteomic analysis demonstrates distinct modes of cell number regulation by EcR and RTK signaling. We define common phosphorylation targets of Pvr and InR that include regulators of cell survival, and unique targets responsible for specialized receptor functions. Interestingly, our analysis reveals that the selection of phosphorylation targets by signaling receptors shows qualitative changes depending on the signaling status of the cell, which may have wide-reaching implications for other cell regulatory systems.
Although the impact of microRNAs (miRNAs) in development and disease is well established, understanding the function of individual miRNAs remains challenging. Development of competitive inhibitor molecules such as miRNA sponges has allowed the community to address individual miRNA function in vivo. However, the application of these loss-of-function strategies has been limited. Here we offer a comprehensive library of 141 conditional miRNA sponges targeting well-conserved miRNAs in Drosophila. Ubiquitous miRNA sponge delivery and consequent systemic miRNA inhibition uncovers a relatively small number of miRNA families underlying viability and gross morphogenesis, with false discovery rates in the 4-8% range. In contrast, tissue-specific silencing of muscle-enriched miRNAs reveals a surprisingly large number of novel miRNA contributions to the maintenance of adult indirect flight muscle structure and function. A strong correlation between miRNA abundance and physiological relevance is not observed, underscoring the importance of unbiased screens when assessing the contributions of miRNAs to complex biological processes.
To facilitate large-scale functional studies in Drosophila, the Drosophila Transgenic RNAi Project (TRiP) at Harvard Medical School (HMS) was established along with several goals: developing efficient vectors for RNAi that work in all tissues, generating a genome-scale collection of RNAi stocks with input from the community, distributing the lines as they are generated through existing stock centers, validating as many lines as possible using RT-qPCR and phenotypic analyses, and developing tools and web resources for identifying RNAi lines and retrieving existing information on their quality. With these goals in mind, here we describe in detail the various tools we developed and the status of the collection, which is currently composed of 11,491 lines and covering 71% of Drosophila genes. Data on the characterization of the lines either by RT-qPCR or phenotype is available on a dedicated website, the RNAi Stock Validation and Phenotypes Project (RSVP, http://www.flyrnai.org/RSVP.html), and stocks are available from three stock centers, the Bloomington Drosophila Stock Center (United States), National Institute of Genetics (Japan), and TsingHua Fly Center (China).
Drosophila can exhibit classic hallmarks of cancer, such as evasion of apoptosis, sustained proliferation, metastasis, prolonged survival, genome instability, and metabolic reprogramming, when cancer-related genes are perturbed. In the last two decades, studies in flies have identified several tumor suppressor and oncogenes. However, the greatest strength of the fly lies in its ability to model cancer hallmarks in a variety of tissue types, which enables the study of context-dependent tumorigenesis. We review the organs and tissues that have been used to model tumor formation, and propose new strategies to maximize the potential of Drosophila in cancer research.
RNA interference (RNAi) triggered by synthetic long double-stranded RNAs (dsRNAs) has been applied in many Drosophila cell lines to study the functions of individual genes or for genome-wide scans. One contributor to the popularity of this approach is that many fly cell lines spontaneously take up dsRNAs from media, obviating the need for assisted uptake methods such as transfection. In this protocol, RNAi is induced in Drosophila S2 cells by soaking with dsRNA. Cell lines other than S2 can also be used, although the ability of each line to passively take up dsRNA does vary. Therefore, the efficiency of passive uptake should be carefully verified for each line.
BACKGROUND: The loss of skeletal muscle mass (atrophy) that accompanies disuse and systemic diseases is highly debilitating. Although the pathogenesis of this condition has been primarily studied in mammals, Drosophila is emerging as an attractive system to investigate some of the mechanisms involved in muscle growth and atrophy. RESULTS: In this review, we highlight the outstanding unsolved questions that may benefit from a combination of studies in both flies and mammals. In particular, we discuss how different environmental stimuli and signaling pathways influence muscle mass and strength and how a variety of disease states can cause muscle wasting. CONCLUSIONS: Studies in Drosophila and mammals should help identify molecular targets for the treatment of muscle wasting in humans.
Over the past decade, numerous reports have underscored the similarities between the metabolism of Drosophila and vertebrates, with the identification of evolutionarily conserved enzymes and analogous organs that regulate carbohydrate and lipid metabolism. It is now well established that the major metabolic, energy-sensing and endocrine signaling networks of vertebrate systems are also conserved in flies. Accordingly, studies in Drosophila are beginning to unravel how perturbed energy balance impinges on lifespan and on the ensuing diseases when energy homeostasis goes awry. Here, we highlight several emerging concepts that are at the nexus between obesity, nutrient sensing, metabolic homeostasis and aging. Specifically, we summarize the endocrine mechanisms that regulate carbohydrate and lipid metabolism, and provide an overview of the neuropeptides that regulate feeding behavior. We further describe the various efforts at modeling the effects of high-fat or -sugar diets in Drosophila and the signaling mechanisms involved in integrating organ function. Finally, we draw attention to some of the cardinal discoveries made with these disease models and how these could spur new research questions in vertebrate systems.
Drosophila melanogaster has become a system of choice for functional genomic studies. Many resources, including online databases and software tools, are now available to support design or identification of relevant fly stocks and reagents or analysis and mining of existing functional genomic, transcriptomic, proteomic, etc. datasets. These include large community collections of fly stocks and plasmid clones, "meta" information sites like FlyBase and FlyMine, and an increasing number of more specialized reagents, databases, and online tools. Here, we introduce key resources useful to plan large-scale functional genomics studies in Drosophila and to analyze, integrate, and mine the results of those studies in ways that facilitate identification of highest-confidence results and generation of new hypotheses. We also discuss ways in which existing resources can be used and might be improved and suggest a few areas of future development that would further support large- and small-scale studies in Drosophila and facilitate use of Drosophila information by the research community more generally.
Gene silencing through sequence-specific targeting of mRNAs by RNAi has enabled genome-wide functional screens in cultured cells and in vivo in model organisms. These screens have resulted in the identification of new cellular pathways and potential drug targets. Considerable progress has been made to improve the quality of RNAi screen data through the development of new experimental and bioinformatics approaches. The recent availability of genome-editing strategies, such as the CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats)-Cas9 system, when combined with RNAi, could lead to further improvements in screen data quality and follow-up experiments, thus promoting our understanding of gene function and gene regulatory networks.
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.
The development and maintenance of the many different cell types in metazoan organisms requires robust and diverse intercellular communication mechanisms. Relatively few such signaling pathways have been identified, leading to the question of how such a broad diversity of output is generated from relatively simple signals. Recent studies have revealed complex mechanisms integrating temporal and spatial information to generate diversity in signaling pathway output. We review some general principles of signaling pathways, focusing on transcriptional outputs in Drosophila. We consider the role of spatial and temporal aspects of different transduction pathways and then discuss how recently developed tools and approaches are helping to dissect the complex mechanisms linking pathway stimulation to output.
The use of genome-wide proteomic and RNA interference approaches has moved our understanding of signal transduction from linear pathways to highly integrated networks centered on core nodes. However, probing the dynamics of flow of information through such networks remains technically challenging. In particular, how the temporal dynamics of an individual pathway can elicit distinct outcomes in a single cell type and how multiple pathways may interact sequentially or synchronously to influence cell fate remain open questions in many contexts. The development of fluorescence-based reporters and optogenetic regulators of pathway activity enables the analysis of signaling in living cells and organisms with unprecedented spatiotemporal resolution and holds the promise of addressing these key questions. We present a brief overview of the evidence for the importance of temporal dynamics in cellular regulation, introduce these fluorescence-based tools, and highlight specific studies that leveraged these tools to probe the dynamics of information flow through signaling networks. In particular, we highlight two studies in Caenorhabditis elegans sensory neurons and cultured mammalian cells that demonstrate the importance of signal dynamics in determining cellular responses.
Connecting phosphorylation events to kinases and phosphatases is key to understanding the molecular organization and signaling dynamics of networks. We have generated a validated set of transgenic RNA-interference reagents for knockdown and characterization of all protein kinases and phosphatases present during early Drosophila melanogaster development. These genetic tools enable collection of sufficient quantities of embryos depleted of single gene products for proteomics. As a demonstration of an application of the collection, we have used multiplexed isobaric labeling for quantitative proteomics to derive global phosphorylation signatures associated with kinase-depleted embryos to systematically link phosphosites with relevant kinases. We demonstrate how this strategy uncovers kinase consensus motifs and prioritizes phosphoproteins for kinase target validation. We validate this approach by providing auxiliary evidence for Wee kinase-directed regulation of the chromatin regulator Stonewall. Further, we show how correlative phosphorylation at the site level can indicate function, as exemplified by Sterile20-like kinase-dependent regulation of Stat92E.
The transcriptome is the readout of the genome. Identifying common features in it across distant species can reveal fundamental principles. To this end, the ENCODE and modENCODE consortia have generated large amounts of matched RNA-sequencing data for human, worm and fly. Uniform processing and comprehensive annotation of these data allow comparison across metazoan phyla, extending beyond earlier within-phylum transcriptome comparisons and revealing ancient, conserved features. Specifically, we discover co-expression modules shared across animals, many of which are enriched in developmental genes. Moreover, we use expression patterns to align the stages in worm and fly development and find a novel pairing between worm embryo and fly pupae, in addition to the embryo-to-embryo and larvae-to-larvae pairings. Furthermore, we find that the extent of non-canonical, non-coding transcription is similar in each organism, per base pair. Finally, we find in all three organisms that the gene-expression levels, both coding and non-coding, can be quantitatively predicted from chromatin features at the promoter using a 'universal model' based on a single set of organism-independent parameters.
The intestine is a key organ for lipid uptake and distribution, and abnormal intestinal lipid metabolism is associated with obesity and hyperlipidemia. Although multiple regulatory gut hormones secreted from enteroendocrine cells (EEs) regulate systemic lipid homeostasis, such as appetite control and energy balance in adipose tissue, their respective roles regarding lipid metabolism in the intestine are not well understood. We demonstrate that tachykinins (TKs), one of the most abundant secreted peptides expressed in midgut EEs, regulate intestinal lipid production and subsequently control systemic lipid homeostasis in Drosophila and that TKs repress lipogenesis in enterocytes (ECs) associated with TKR99D receptor and protein kinase A (PKA) signaling. Interestingly, nutrient deprivation enhances the production of TKs in the midgut. Finally, unlike the physiological roles of TKs produced from the brain, gut-derived TKs do not affect behavior, thus demonstrating that gut TK hormones specifically regulate intestinal lipid metabolism without affecting neuronal functions.
Animal transcriptomes are dynamic, with each cell type, tissue and organ system expressing an ensemble of transcript isoforms that give rise to substantial diversity. Here we have identified new genes, transcripts and proteins using poly(A)+ RNA sequencing from Drosophila melanogaster in cultured cell lines, dissected organ systems and under environmental perturbations. We found that a small set of mostly neural-specific genes has the potential to encode thousands of transcripts each through extensive alternative promoter usage and RNA splicing. The magnitudes of splicing changes are larger between tissues than between developmental stages, and most sex-specific splicing is gonad-specific. Gonads express hundreds of previously unknown coding and long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs), some of which are antisense to protein-coding genes and produce short regulatory RNAs. Furthermore, previously identified pervasive intergenic transcription occurs primarily within newly identified introns. The fly transcriptome is substantially more complex than previously recognized, with this complexity arising from combinatorial usage of promoters, splice sites and polyadenylation sites.
Intestinal stem cells in the adult Drosophila midgut are regulated by growth factors produced from the surrounding niche cells including enterocytes and visceral muscle. The role of the other major cell type, the secretory enteroendocrine cells, in regulating intestinal stem cells remains unclear. We show here that newly eclosed scute loss-of-function mutant flies are completely devoid of enteroendocrine cells. These enteroendocrine cell-less flies have normal ingestion and fecundity but shorter lifespan. Moreover, in these newly eclosed mutant flies, the diet-stimulated midgut growth that depends on the insulin-like peptide 3 expression in the surrounding muscle is defective. The depletion of Tachykinin-producing enteroendocrine cells or knockdown of Tachykinin leads to a similar although less severe phenotype. These results establish that enteroendocrine cells serve as an important link between diet and visceral muscle expression of an insulin-like growth factor to stimulate intestinal stem cell proliferation and tissue growth.
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.