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1.  The Drosophila F-box protein Fbxl7 binds to the protocadherin Fat and regulates Dachs localization and Hippo signaling 
eLife  2014;3:e03383.
The Drosophila protocadherin Fat (Ft) regulates growth, planar cell polarity (PCP) and proximodistal patterning. A key downstream component of Ft signaling is the atypical myosin Dachs (D). Multiple regions of the intracellular domain of Ft have been implicated in regulating growth and PCP but how Ft regulates D is not known. Mutations in Fbxl7, which encodes an F-box protein, result in tissue overgrowth and abnormalities in proximodistal patterning that phenocopy deleting a specific portion of the intracellular domain (ICD) of Ft that regulates both growth and PCP. Fbxl7 binds to this same portion of the Ft ICD, co-localizes with Ft to the proximal edge of cells and regulates the levels and asymmetry of D at the apical membrane. Fbxl7 can also regulate the trafficking of proteins between the apical membrane and intracellular vesicles. Thus Fbxl7 functions in a subset of pathways downstream of Ft and links Ft to D localization.
eLife digest
Multi-cellular organisms are made up of cells that are organized into tissues and organs that reach a predictable size and shape at the end of their development. To do this, cells must be able to sense their position and orientation within the body and know when to stop growing.
Epithelial cells—which make up the outer surface of an animal's body and line the cavities of its internal organs—connect to each other to form flat sheets. These sheets of cells contain structures that are oriented along the plane of the sheet. However, how this so-called ‘planar cell polarity’ coordinates with cell growth in order to build complex tissues and organs remains to be discovered.
A protein called Fat is a major player in both planar cell polarity and the Hippo signaling pathway, which controls cell growth. As such, the Fat protein appears to be crucial for controlling the size and shape of organs. Mutations in the Fat protein cause massive tissue overgrowth, prevent planar cell polarity being established correctly, and stop the legs and wings of fruit flies developing normally.
The Fat protein also plays a role in distributing another protein called Dachs—which is also part of the Hippo signaling pathway. In epithelial cells of the developing wing, Dachs is mostly located on the side of the cell that is closest to the tip of the developing wing (the so-called ‘distal surface’). How Fat and Dachs work together is not understood, but it is known that they do not bind to each other directly.
Now, Bosch et al. show that in the fruit fly Drosophila, the Fat protein binds to another protein called Fbxl7. Flies that cannot produce working Fbxl7 have defects in some aspects of planar cell polarity and a modest increase in tissue growth. Fbxl7 seems to account for part, but not all, of the ability of Fat to restrict tissue growth. Furthermore, a lack of the Fbxl7 protein results in a spreading of Dachs protein across the apical surface—which faces out of the epithelial sheet—of epithelial cells. On the other hand, if Fbxl7 is over-expressed, Dachs is driven to the interior of each cell. Hence, a normal level of Fbxl7 protein restricts the Dachs protein to the correct parts of the cell surface.
Together, the findings of Bosch et al. show that the Fbxl7 protein is a key link between the Fat and Dachs proteins. These results also provide an understanding of how growth and planar cell polarity—two processes that are essential for normal development of all multi-cellular organisms—are coordinated.
PMCID: PMC4144329  PMID: 25107277
Hippo pathway; cell proliferation; planar cell polarity; cadherin; vesicle; ubiquitin; D. melanogaster
2.  The Drosophila Ortholog of MLL3 and MLL4, trithorax related, Functions as a Negative Regulator of Tissue Growth 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2013;33(9):1702-1710.
The human MLL genes (MLL1 to MLL4) and their Drosophila orthologs, trithorax (trx) and trithorax related (trr), encode proteins capable of methylating histone H3 on lysine 4. MLL1 and MLL2 are most similar to trx, while MLL3 and MLL4 are more closely related to trr. Several MLL genes are mutated in human cancers, but how these proteins regulate cell proliferation is not known. Here we show that trr mutant cells have a growth advantage over their wild-type neighbors and display changes in the levels of multiple proteins that regulate growth and cell division, including Notch, Capicua, and cyclin B. trr mutant clones display markedly reduced levels of H3K4 monomethylation without obvious changes in the levels of H3K4 di- and trimethylation. The trr mutant phenotype resembles that of Utx, which encodes a H3K27 demethylase, consistent with the observation that Trr and Utx are found in the same protein complex. In contrast to the overgrowth displayed by trr mutant tissue, trx clones are underrepresented, express low levels of the antiapoptotic protein Diap1, and exhibit only modest changes in global levels of H3K4 methylation. Thus, in Drosophila eye imaginal discs, Trr, likely functioning together with Utx, restricts tissue growth. In contrast, Trx appears to promote cell survival.
PMCID: PMC3624179  PMID: 23459941
3.  Differences in levels of the transmembrane protein Crumbs can influence cell survival at clonal boundaries 
Developmental biology  2012;368(2):358-369.
The survival and growth of individual cells in a tissue can be nonautonomously regulated by the properties of adjacent cells. In mosaic Drosophila imaginal discs, for example, wild-type cells induce the elimination of adjacent slow-growing Minute cells by apoptosis, while, conversely, certain types of faster-growing cells are able to eliminate adjacent wild-type cells. This process, known as cell competition, represents one example of a diverse group of phenomena in which short-range heterotypic interactions result in the selective elimination of one type of cell by another. The mechanisms that designate “winner” and “loser” genotypes in these processes are not known. Here we show that apoptosis is observed preferentially at boundaries that separate populations of cells that express different levels of the transmembrane protein Crumbs (Crb). Cells that express higher levels of Crb tend to be eliminated when they are near cells that express lower levels of Crb. We also observe distortions in the structure of epithelia on either side of boundaries between populations of cells that differ in Crb expression. Thus, while previous studies have focused mostly on the cell autonomous functions of Crb, we show that Crb can regulate cell survival and tissue morphology nonautonomously. Moreover, we find that the extracellular domain (ECD) of Crb, which seems to be dispensable for some of the other characterized functions of Crb, is required to elicit the nonautonomous effects on cell survival. The ECD can also regulate the subcellular localization of Hippo pathway components, and possibly other proteins, in adjacent cells and may therefore directly mediate these effects. Several genetic lesions alter Crb levels, including loss-of-function mutations in hyperplastic tumor suppressors in the Hippo-Salvador-Warts pathway and in neoplastic tumor suppressor genes, such as scribble. Thus, Crb may be part of a “surveillance mechanism” that is responsible for the cell death that is observed at the boundaries of mutant clones in these cases.
PMCID: PMC3412113  PMID: 22683826
4.  The HMG-box protein Capicua regulates cell proliferation downstream of the receptor tyrosine kinase/Ras signaling pathway 
Current biology : CB  2007;17(8):728-733.
Signaling via the receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) /Ras pathway promotes tissue growth during organismal development and is increased in many cancers. The precise way in which this pathway activates cell growth is still not well understood. Here we show that the HMG box protein Capicua (Cic) has a key role in growth regulation by the RTK/Ras pathway. Cic restricts cell growth in Drosophila imaginal discs and its levels are, in turn, downregulated by Ras signaling. Unlike normal cells, the growth of cic mutant cells is undiminished in the complete absence of a Ras signal. In addition to a general role in growth regulation, the importance of cic in regulating cell fate determination downstream of Ras appears to vary from tissue to tissue. In the developing eye, the analysis of cic mutants shows that the functions of Ras in regulating growth and cell fate determination are separable. Thus, the DNA-binding protein Cic is a key downstream component in the pathway by which Ras regulates growth in imaginal discs.
PMCID: PMC2699483  PMID: 17398096
5.  The Drosophila tumor suppressors Expanded and Merlin differentially regulate cell cycle exit, apoptosis, and Wingless signaling 
Developmental biology  2006;304(1):102-115.
Mutations that inactivate either merlin (mer) or expanded (ex) result in increased cell growth and proliferation in Drosophila. Both Mer and Ex are members of the Band 4.1 protein superfamily, and, based on analyses of mer ex double mutants, they are proposed to function together in at least a partially redundant manner upstream of the Hippo (Hpo) and Warts (Wts) proteins to regulate cell growth and division. By individually analyzing ex and mer mutant phenotypes, we have found important qualitative and quantitative differences in the ways Mer and Ex function to regulate cell proliferation and cell survival. Though both mer and ex restrict cell and tissue growth, ex clones exhibit delayed cell cycle exit in the developing eye, while mer clones do not. Conversely, loss of mer substantially compromises normal developmental apoptosis in the pupal retina, while loss of ex has only mild effects. Finally, ex has a role in regulating Wingless protein levels in the eye that is not obviously shared by either mer or hpo. Taken together, our data suggest that Mer and Ex differentially regulate multiple downstream pathways.
PMCID: PMC1924969  PMID: 17258190
merlin; expanded; wingless; hippo; apoptosis; tumor suppressor; cell cycle
6.  Identification and Characterization of Genes Required for Compensatory Growth in Drosophila 
Genetics  2011;189(4):1309-1326.
To maintain tissue homeostasis, some organs are able to replace dying cells with additional proliferation of surviving cells. Such proliferation can be localized (e.g., a regeneration blastema) or diffuse (compensatory growth). The relationship between such growth and the growth that occurs during development has not been characterized in detail. Drosophila melanogaster larval imaginal discs can recover from extensive damage, producing normally sized adult organs. Here we describe a system using genetic mosaics to screen for recessive mutations that impair compensatory growth. By generating clones of cells that carry a temperature-sensitive cell-lethal mutation, we conditionally ablate patches of tissue in the imaginal disc and assess the ability of the surviving sister clones to replace the lost tissue. We have used this system together with a modified whole-genome resequencing (WGS) strategy to identify several mutations that selectively compromise compensatory growth. We find specific alleles of bunched (bun) and Ribonucleoside diphosphate reductase large subunit (RnrL) reduce compensatory growth in the imaginal disc. Other genes identified in the screen, including two alleles of Topoisomerase 3-alpha (Top3α), while also required for developmental growth, appear to have an enhanced requirement during compensatory growth. Compensatory growth occurs at a higher rate than normal growth and may therefore have features in common with some types of overgrowth. Indeed, the RnrL allele identified compromises both these types of altered growth and mammalian ribonucleotide reductase and topoisomerases are targets of anticancer drugs. Finally, the approach we describe is applicable to the study of compensatory growth in diverse tissues in Drosophila.
PMCID: PMC3241433  PMID: 21926302
7.  Inactivation of both foxo and reaper promotes long-term adult neurogenesis in Drosophila 
Current biology : CB  2010;20(7):643-648.
Neurogenesis continues throughout adulthood in the brains of many animals, including some insects[1–3], and relies on the presence of mitotic neural stem cells. However, in mammals, unlike the liver or skin, the regenerative capacity of the adult nervous system is extremely limited. Using the Drosophila brain as a model, we investigate the mechanisms that restrict adult neurogenesis, with the eventual goal of devising ways to replace neurons lost by injury or disease. We find that in Drosophila, adult neurogenesis is absent due to the elimination of neural stem cells (neuroblasts) during development by cell death. Prior to their elimination, neuroblasts undergo a developmentally regulated reduction in their growth and proliferation rates due to downregulation of insulin/PI3 kinase signaling, resulting in increased levels of nuclear Foxo. These small, growth-impaired neuroblasts are often eliminated by caspase-dependent cell death and not exclusively by terminal differentiation as has been previously proposed[4]. Eliminating Foxo, together with inhibition of pro-apoptotic proteins promotes long-term survival of neuroblasts and sustained neurogenesis in the adult mushroom body (mb), the center for learning and memory in Drosophila. Foxo likely activates an autophagic cell death response, since simultaneous inhibition of ATG1 (autophagy-specific gene 1) and apoptosis also promotes long-term mb neuroblast survival. mb neurons generated in the adult incorporate into the existing mb neuropil suggesting that both neuroblast identity and neuronal pathfinding cues are intact. Thus neurogenesis can be induced in adults by antagonizing pathways that normally function to eliminate neural stem cells during development.
PMCID: PMC2862284  PMID: 20346676
8.  Retinoids regulate a developmental checkpoint for tissue regeneration in Drosophila 
Current biology : CB  2010;20(5):458-463.
Drosophila melanogaster larvae have a remarkable capacity for regenerative growth: Damage to their imaginal discs, the larval precursors of adult structures, elicits a robust proliferative response from the surviving tissue [1–4]. However, as in other organisms, developmental progression and differentiation can restrict regenerative capacity of Drosophila tissues. Experiments in Drosophila and other holometabolous insects have demonstrated that either damage to imaginal tissues [5, 6] or transplantation of a damaged imaginal disc [7, 8] delays the onset of metamorphosis, a time when the imaginal discs undergo morphogenesis and differentiation into their adult structures. Therefore, in Drosophila there appears to be a mechanism that senses tissue damage and extends the larval phase to coordinate tissue regeneration with the overall developmental program of the organism. However, how such a pathway functions remains unknown. Here we demonstrate that a developmental checkpoint extends larval growth after imaginal disc damage by inhibiting the transcription of the gene encoding PTTH, a neuropeptide that promotes the release of the steroid hormone ecdysone. Using a genetic screen, we identify a previously unsuspected role for retinoid biosynthesis in regulating PTTH expression and delaying development in response to tissue damage. Retinoid signaling plays an important, but poorly defined role in several vertebrate regeneration models [9–11]. Our findings demonstrate that retinoid biosynthesis in Drosophila is important for the maintenance of a permissive condition for regenerative growth.
PMCID: PMC2847081  PMID: 20189388
regeneration; ecdysone; retinoid
9.  A Buoyancy-Based Screen of Drosophila Larvae for Fat-Storage Mutants Reveals a Role for Sir2 in Coupling Fat Storage to Nutrient Availability 
PLoS Genetics  2010;6(11):e1001206.
Obesity has a strong genetic component, but few of the genes that predispose to obesity are known. Genetic screens in invertebrates have the potential to identify genes and pathways that regulate the levels of stored fat, many of which are likely to be conserved in humans. To facilitate such screens, we have developed a simple buoyancy-based screening method for identifying mutant Drosophila larvae with increased levels of stored fat. Using this approach, we have identified 66 genes that when mutated increase organismal fat levels. Among these was a sirtuin family member, Sir2. Sirtuins regulate the storage and metabolism of carbohydrates and lipids by deacetylating key regulatory proteins. However, since mammalian sirtuins function in many tissues in different ways, it has been difficult to define their role in energy homeostasis accurately under normal feeding conditions. We show that knockdown of Sir2 in the larval fat body results in increased fat levels. Moreover, using genetic mosaics, we demonstrate that Sir2 restricts fat accumulation in individual cells of the fat body in a cell-autonomous manner. Consistent with this function, changes in the expression of metabolic enzymes in Sir2 mutants point to a shift away from catabolism. Surprisingly, although Sir2 is typically upregulated under conditions of starvation, Sir2 mutant larvae survive better than wild type under conditions of amino-acid starvation as long as sugars are provided. Our findings point to a Sir2-mediated pathway that activates a catabolic response to amino-acid starvation irrespective of the sugar content of the diet.
Author Summary
Obesity is a major problem in affluent societies. In addition to dietary intake, there are clearly genetic factors that make some people more likely to become obese. At present, we have a poor understanding of what the genetic differences are that predispose some individuals to obesity. In order to discover genes that regulate the amount of stored fat, we have conducted a study using larvae of the fruit fly Drosophila and shown that 66 different genes, when mutated, cause these larvae to store more fat. For the majority of these genes, very similar genes exist in humans. We have also shown that the Sir2 gene has a role in protecting these larvae from storing excessive amounts of fat and that it does so by regulating the synthesis and breakdown of fat in individual cells of a tissue where fat is stored. Finally, we demonstrate a role for Sir2 in changing metabolism when certain types of nutrients (amino acids) are lacking in the diet.
PMCID: PMC2978688  PMID: 21085633
10.  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
11.  Regenerative growth in Drosophila imaginal discs is regulated by Wingless and Myc 
Developmental cell  2009;16(6):797-809.
The study of regeneration would be aided greatly by systems that support large-scale genetic screens. Here we describe a non-surgical method for inducing tissue damage and regeneration in Drosophila larvae by inducing apoptosis in the wing imaginal disc in a spatially and temporally regulated manner. Tissue damage results in localized regenerative proliferation characterized by altered expression of patterning genes and growth regulators as well as a temporary loss of markers of cell fate commitment. Wingless and Myc are induced by tissue damage and are important for regenerative growth. Furthermore, ectopic Myc enhances regeneration when other growth drivers tested do not. As the animal matures, the ability to regenerate is lost and cannot be restored by activation of Wg or Myc. This system is conducive to forward genetic screens, enabling an unbiased search for genes that regulate both the extent of and the capacity for regeneration.
PMCID: PMC2705171  PMID: 19531351
12.  Comparative Genomics of the Eukaryotes 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2000;287(5461):2204-2215.
A comparative analysis of the genomes of Drosophila melanogaster, Caenorhabditis elegans, and Saccharomyces cerevisiae—and the proteins they are predicted to encode—was undertaken in the context of cellular, developmental, and evolutionary processes. The nonredundant protein sets of flies and worms are similar in size and are only twice that of yeast, but different gene families are expanded in each genome, and the multidomain proteins and signaling pathways of the fly and worm are far more complex than those of yeast. The fly has orthologs to 177 of the 289 human disease genes examined and provides the foundation for rapid analysis of some of the basic processes involved in human disease.
PMCID: PMC2754258  PMID: 10731134
13.  FOXO-regulated transcription restricts overgrowth of Tsc mutant organs 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2008;180(4):691-696.
FOXO is thought to function as a repressor of growth that is, in turn, inhibited by insulin signaling. However, inactivating mutations in Drosophila melanogaster FOXO result in viable flies of normal size, which raises a question over the involvement of FOXO in growth regulation. Previously, a growth-suppressive role for FOXO under conditions of increased target of rapamycin (TOR) pathway activity was described. Here, we further characterize this phenomenon. We show that tuberous sclerosis complex 1 mutations cause increased FOXO levels, resulting in elevated expression of FOXO-regulated genes, some of which are known to antagonize growth-promoting pathways. Analogous transcriptional changes are observed in mammalian cells, which implies that FOXO attenuates TOR-driven growth in diverse species.
PMCID: PMC2265581  PMID: 18299344
14.  The Drosophila melanogaster Apaf-1 homologue ARK is required for most, but not all, programmed cell death 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2006;172(6):809-815.
The Apaf-1 protein is essential for cytochrome c–mediated caspase-9 activation in the intrinsic mammalian pathway of apoptosis. Although Apaf-1 is the only known mammalian homologue of the Caenorhabditis elegans CED-4 protein, the deficiency of apaf-1 in cells or in mice results in a limited cell survival phenotype, suggesting that alternative mechanisms of caspase activation and apoptosis exist in mammals. In Drosophila melanogaster, the only Apaf-1/CED-4 homologue, ARK, is required for the activation of the caspase-9/CED-3–like caspase DRONC. Using specific mutants that are deficient for ark function, we demonstrate that ARK is essential for most programmed cell death (PCD) during D. melanogaster development, as well as for radiation-induced apoptosis. ark mutant embryos have extra cells, and tissues such as brain lobes and wing discs are enlarged. These tissues from ark mutant larvae lack detectable PCD. During metamorphosis, larval salivary gland removal was severely delayed in ark mutants. However, PCD occurred normally in the larval midgut, suggesting that ARK-independent cell death pathways also exist in D. melanogaster.
PMCID: PMC2063725  PMID: 16533943

Results 1-15 (15)