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1.  The H3K27me3 Demethylase dUTX Is a Suppressor of Notch- and Rb-Dependent Tumors in Drosophila▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2010;30(10):2485-2497.
Trimethylated lysine 27 of histone H3 (H3K27me3) is an epigenetic mark for gene silencing and can be demethylated by the JmjC domain of UTX. Excessive H3K27me3 levels can cause tumorigenesis, but little is known about the mechanisms leading to those cancers. Mutants of the Drosophila H3K27me3 demethylase dUTX display some characteristics of Trithorax group mutants and have increased H3K27me3 levels in vivo. Surprisingly, dUTX mutations also affect H3K4me1 levels in a JmjC-independent manner. We show that a disruption of the JmjC domain of dUTX results in a growth advantage for mutant cells over adjacent wild-type tissue due to increased proliferation. The growth advantage of dUTX mutant tissue is caused, at least in part, by increased Notch activity, demonstrating that dUTX is a Notch antagonist. Furthermore, the inactivation of Retinoblastoma (Rbf in Drosophila) contributes to the growth advantage of dUTX mutant tissue. The excessive activation of Notch in dUTX mutant cells leads to tumor-like growth in an Rbf-dependent manner. In summary, these data suggest that dUTX is a suppressor of Notch- and Rbf-dependent tumors in Drosophila melanogaster and may provide a model for UTX-dependent tumorigenesis in humans.
PMCID: PMC2863695  PMID: 20212086
2.  Inactivation of Effector Caspases through Nondegradative Polyubiquitylation 
Molecular cell  2008;32(4):540-553.
Ubiquitin-mediated inactivation of caspases has long been postulated to contribute to the regulation of apoptosis. However, detailed mechanisms and functional consequences of caspase ubiquitylation have not been demonstrated. Here we show that the Drosophila Inhibitor of Apoptosis 1, DIAP1, blocks effector caspases by targeting them for polyubiquitylation and nonproteasomal inactivation. We demonstrate that the conjugation of ubiquitin to drICE suppresses its catalytic potential in cleaving caspase substrates. Our data suggest that ubiquitin conjugation sterically interferes with substrate entry and reduces the caspase’s proteolytic velocity. Disruption of drICE ubiquitylation, either by mutation of DIAP1’s E3 activity or drICE’s ubiquitin-acceptor lysines, abrogates DIAP1’s ability to neutralize drICE and suppress apoptosis in vivo. We also show that DIAP1 rests in an “inactive” conformation that requires caspase-mediated cleavage to subsequently ubiquitylate caspases. Taken together, our findings demonstrate that effector caspases regulate their own inhibition through a negative feedback mechanism involving DIAP1 “activation” and nondegradative polyubiquitylation.
PMCID: PMC2713662  PMID: 19026784
3.  Mis-specified cells die by an active gene-directed process, and inhibition of this death results in cell fate transformation in Drosophila 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2005;132(24):5343-5352.
Incorrectly specified or mis-specified cells often undergo cell death or are transformed to adopt a different cell fate during development. The underlying cause for this distinction is largely unknown. In many developmental mutants in Drosophila, large numbers of mis-specified cells die synchronously, providing a convenient model for analysis of this phenomenon. The maternal mutant bicoid is particularly useful model with which to address this issue because its mutant phenotype is a combination of both transformation of tissue (acron to telson) and cell death in the presumptive head and thorax regions. We show that a subset of these mis-specified cells die through an active gene-directed process involving transcriptional upregulation of the cell death inducer hid. Upregulation of hid also occurs in oskar mutants and other segmentation mutants. In hid bicoid double mutants, mis-specified cells in the presumptive head and thorax survive and continue to develop, but they are transformed to adopt a different cell fate. We provide evidence that the terminal torso signaling pathway protects the mis-specified telson tissue in bicoid mutants from hid-induced cell death, whereas mis-specified cells in the head and thorax die, presumably because equivalent survival signals are lacking. These data support a model whereby mis-specification can be tolerated if a survival pathway is provided, resulting in cellular transformation.
PMCID: PMC2760325  PMID: 16280349
Mis-specification; Cell death; Transformation; Bicoid; Oskar; Hid; Drosophila
4.  Common and Distinct Genetic Properties of ESCRT-II Components in Drosophila 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(1):e4165.
Genetic studies in yeast have identified class E vps genes that form the ESCRT complexes required for protein sorting at the early endosome. In Drosophila, mutations of the ESCRT-II component vps25 cause endosomal defects leading to accumulation of Notch protein and increased Notch pathway activity. These endosomal and signaling defects are thought to account for several phenotypes. Depending on the developmental context, two different types of overgrowth can be detected. Tissue predominantly mutant for vps25 displays neoplastic tumor characteristics. In contrast, vps25 mutant clones in a wild-type background trigger hyperplastic overgrowth in a non-autonomous manner. In addition, vps25 mutant clones also promote apoptotic resistance in a non-autonomous manner.
Principal Findings
Here, we genetically characterize the remaining ESCRT-II components vps22 and vps36. Like vps25, mutants of vps22 and vps36 display endosomal defects, accumulate Notch protein and – when the tissue is predominantly mutant – show neoplastic tumor characteristics. However, despite these common phenotypes, they have distinct non-autonomous phenotypes. While vps22 mutations cause strong non-autonomous overgrowth, they do not affect apoptotic resistance. In contrast, vps36 mutations increase apoptotic resistance, but have little effect on non-autonomous proliferation. Further characterization reveals that although all ESCRT-II mutants accumulate Notch protein, only vps22 and vps25 mutations trigger Notch activity.
The ESCRT-II components vps22, vps25 and vps36 display common and distinct genetic properties. Our data redefine the role of Notch for hyperplastic and neoplastic overgrowth in these mutants. While Notch is required for hyperplastic growth, it appears to be dispensable for neoplastic transformation.
PMCID: PMC2613530  PMID: 19132102
5.  vps25 mosaics display non-autonomous cell survival and overgrowth, and autonomous apoptosis 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2006;133(10):1871-1880.
Appropriate cell-cell signaling is crucial for proper tissue homeostasis. Protein sorting of cell surface receptors at the early endosome is important for both the delivery of the signal and the inactivation of the receptor, and its alteration can cause malignancies including cancer. In a genetic screen for suppressors of the pro-apoptotic gene hid in Drosophila, we identified two alleles of vps25, a component of the ESCRT machinery required for protein sorting at the early endosome. Paradoxically, although vps25 mosaics were identified as suppressors of hid-induced apoptosis, vps25 mutant cells die. However, we provide evidence that a non-autonomous increase of Diap1 protein levels, an inhibitor of apoptosis, accounts for the suppression of hid. Furthermore, before they die, vps25 mutant clones trigger non-autonomous proliferation through a failure to downregulate Notch signaling, which activates the mitogenic JAK/STAT pathway. Hid and JNK contribute to apoptosis of vps25 mutant cells. Inhibition of cell death in vps25 clones causes dramatic overgrowth phenotypes. In addition, Hippo signaling is increased in vps25 clones, and hippo mutants block apoptosis in vps25 clones. In summary, the phenotypic analysis of vps25 mutants highlights the importance of receptor downregulation by endosomal protein sorting for appropriate tissue homeostasis, and may serve as a model for human cancer.
PMCID: PMC2519036  PMID: 16611691
Vps25; ESCRT; Protein sorting; MVB; Notch; Cell proliferation; Cell survival; Apoptosis
6.  The E1 ubiquitin-activating enzyme Uba1 in Drosophila controls apoptosis autonomously and tissue growth non-autonomously 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2007;135(1):43-52.
Ubiquitination is an essential process regulating turnover of proteins for basic cellular processes such as the cell cycle and cell death (apoptosis). Ubiquitination is initiated by ubiquitin-activating enzymes (E1), which activate and transfer ubiquitin to ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes (E2). Conjugation of target proteins with ubiquitin is then mediated by ubiquitin ligases (E3). Ubiquitination has been well characterized using mammalian cell lines and yeast genetics. However, the consequences of partial or complete loss of ubiquitin conjugation in a multi-cellular organism are not well understood. Here, we report the characterization of Uba1, the only E1 in Drosophila. We found that weak and strong Uba1 alleles behave genetically differently with sometimes opposing phenotypes. Whereas weak Uba1 alleles protect cells from cell death, clones of strong Uba1 alleles are highly apoptotic. Strong Uba1 alleles cause cell cycle arrest which correlates with failure to reduce cyclin levels. Surprisingly, clones of strong Uba1 mutants stimulate neighboring wild-type tissue to undergo cell division in a non-autonomous manner giving rise to overgrowth phenotypes of the mosaic fly. We demonstrate that the non-autonomous overgrowth is caused by failure to downregulate Notch signaling in Uba1 mutant clones. In summary, the phenotypic analysis of Uba1 demonstrates that impaired ubiquitin conjugation has significant consequences for the organism, and may implicate Uba1 as a tumor suppressor gene.
PMCID: PMC2277323  PMID: 18045837
Uba1; E1; Ubiquitin-activating enzyme; Apoptosis; Proliferation; Drosophila; Autonomous control; Non autonomous control

Results 1-6 (6)