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1.  Organization and evolution of hsp70 clusters strikingly differ in two species of Stratiomyidae (Diptera) inhabiting thermally contrasting environments 
Previously, we described the heat shock response in dipteran species belonging to the family Stratiomyidae that develop in thermally and chemically contrasting habitats including highly aggressive ones. Although all species studied exhibit high constitutive levels of Hsp70 accompanied by exceptionally high thermotolerance, we also detected characteristic interspecies differences in heat shock protein (Hsp) expression and survival after severe heat shock. Here, we analyzed genomic libraries from two Stratiomyidae species from thermally and chemically contrasting habitats and determined the structure and organization of their hsp70 clusters.
Although the genomes of both species contain similar numbers of hsp70 genes, the spatial distribution of hsp70 copies differs characteristically. In a population of the eurytopic species Stratiomys singularior, which exists in thermally variable and chemically aggressive (hypersaline) conditions, the hsp70 copies form a tight cluster with approximately equal intergenic distances. In contrast, in a population of the stenotopic Oxycera pardalina that dwells in a stable cold spring, we did not find hsp70 copies in tandem orientation. In this species, the distance between individual hsp70 copies in the genome is very large, if they are linked at all. In O. pardalina we detected the hsp68 gene located next to a hsp70 copy in tandem orientation. Although the hsp70 coding sequences of S. singularior are highly homogenized via conversion, the structure and general arrangement of the hsp70 clusters are highly polymorphic, including gross aberrations, various deletions in intergenic regions, and insertion of incomplete Mariner transposons in close vicinity to the 3'-UTRs.
The hsp70 gene families in S. singularior and O. pardalina evolved quite differently from one another. We demonstrated clear evidence of homogenizing gene conversion in the S. singularior hsp70 genes, which form tight clusters in this species. In the case of the other species, O. pardalina, we found no clear trace of concerted evolution for the dispersed hsp70 genes. Furthermore, in the latter species we detected hsp70 pseudogenes, representing a hallmark of the birth-and-death process.
PMCID: PMC3071340  PMID: 21426536
Diptera; hsp70 gene cluster; thermal adaptation; concerted evolution; Stratiomyidae
2.  Natural Variation of the Amino-Terminal Glutamine-Rich Domain in Drosophila Argonaute2 Is Not Associated with Developmental Defects 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(12):e15264.
The Drosophila argonaute2 (ago2) gene plays a major role in siRNA mediated RNA silencing pathways. Unlike mammalian Argonaute proteins, the Drosophila protein has an unusual amino-terminal domain made up largely of multiple copies of glutamine-rich repeats (GRRs). We report here that the ago2 locus produces an alternative transcript that encodes a putative short isoform without this amino-terminal domain. Several ago2 mutations previously reported to be null alleles only abolish expression of the long, GRR-containing isoform. Analysis of drop out (dop) mutations had previously suggested that variations in GRR copy number result in defects in RNAi and embryonic development. However, we find that dop mutations genetically complement transcript-null alleles of ago2 and that ago2 alleles with variant GRR copy numbers support normal development. In addition, we show that the assembly of the central RNAi machinery, the RISC (RNA induced silencing complex), is unimpaired in embryos when GRR copy number is altered. In fact, we find that GRR copy number is highly variable in natural D. melanogaster populations as well as in laboratory strains. Finally, while many other insects share an extensive, glutamine-rich Ago2 amino-terminal domain, its primary sequence varies drastically between species. Our data indicate that GRR variation does not modulate an essential function of Ago2 and that the amino-terminal domain of Ago2 is subject to rapid evolution.
PMCID: PMC3002974  PMID: 21253006
3.  In vivo quantification of formulated and chemically modified small interfering RNA by heating-in-Triton quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (HIT qRT-PCR) 
Silence  2010;1:16.
While increasing numbers of small interfering RNA (siRNA) therapeutics enter into clinical trials, the quantification of siRNA from clinical samples for pharmacokinetic studies remains a challenge. This challenge is even more acute for the quantification of chemically modified and formulated siRNAs such as those typically required for systemic delivery.
Here, we describe a novel method, heating-in-Triton quantitative reverse transcription PCR (HIT qRT-PCR) that improves upon the stem-loop RT-PCR technique for the detection of formulated and chemically modified siRNAs from plasma and tissue. The broad dynamic range of this assay spans five orders of magnitude and can detect as little as 70 pg duplex in 1 g of liver or in 1 ml of plasma. We have used this assay to quantify intravenously administrated siRNA in rodents and have reliably correlated target reduction with tissue drug concentrations. We were able to detect siRNA in rat liver for at least 10 days post injection and determined that for a modified factor VII (FVII) siRNA, on average, approximately 500 siRNA molecules per cell are required to achieve a 50% target reduction.
HIT qRT-PCR is a novel approach that simplifies the in vivo quantification of siRNA and provides a highly sensitive and reproducible tool to measure the silencing efficiency of chemically modified and formulated siRNAs.
PMCID: PMC2939650  PMID: 20731861
4.  Inducible and constitutive heat shock gene expression responds to modification of Hsp70 copy number in Drosophila melanogaster but does not compensate for loss of thermotolerance in Hsp70 null flies 
BMC Biology  2008;6:5.
The heat shock protein Hsp70 promotes inducible thermotolerance in nearly every organism examined to date. Hsp70 interacts with a network of other stress-response proteins, and dissecting the relative roles of these interactions in causing thermotolerance remains difficult. Here we examine the effect of Hsp70 gene copy number modification on thermotolerance and the expression of multiple stress-response genes in Drosophila melanogaster, to determine which genes may represent mechanisms of stress tolerance independent of Hsp70.
Hsp70 copy number in four strains is positively associated with Hsp70 expression and inducible thermotolerance of severe heat shock. When assayed at carefully chosen temperatures, Hsp70 null flies are almost entirely deficient in thermotolerance. In contrast to expectations, increasing Hsp70 expression levels induced by thermal pretreatment are associated with increasing levels of seven other inducible Hsps across strains. In addition, complete Hsp70 loss causes upregulation of the inducible Hsps and six constitutive stress-response genes following severe heat shocks.
Modification of Hsp70 copy number quantitatively and qualitatively affects the expression of multiple other stress-response genes. A positive association between absolute expression levels of Hsp70 and other Hsps after thermal pretreatment suggests novel regulatory mechanisms. Severe heat shocks induce both novel gene expression patterns and almost total mortality in the Hsp70 null strain: alteration of gene expression in this strain does not compensate for Hsp70 loss but suggests candidates for overexpression studies.
PMCID: PMC2257928  PMID: 18211703
5.  Annotation of the Drosophila melanogaster euchromatic genome: a systematic review 
Genome Biology  2002;3(12):research0083.1-83.22.
The recent completion of the Drosophila melanogaster genomic sequence to high quality, and the availability of a greatly expanded set of Drosophila cDNA sequences, afforded FlyBase the opportunity to significantly improve genomic annotations.
The recent completion of the Drosophila melanogaster genomic sequence to high quality and the availability of a greatly expanded set of Drosophila cDNA sequences, aligning to 78% of the predicted euchromatic genes, afforded FlyBase the opportunity to significantly improve genomic annotations. We made the annotation process more rigorous by inspecting each gene visually, utilizing a comprehensive set of curation rules, requiring traceable evidence for each gene model, and comparing each predicted peptide to SWISS-PROT and TrEMBL sequences.
Although the number of predicted protein-coding genes in Drosophila remains essentially unchanged, the revised annotation significantly improves gene models, resulting in structural changes to 85% of the transcripts and 45% of the predicted proteins. We annotated transposable elements and non-protein-coding RNAs as new features, and extended the annotation of untranslated (UTR) sequences and alternative transcripts to include more than 70% and 20% of genes, respectively. Finally, cDNA sequence provided evidence for dicistronic transcripts, neighboring genes with overlapping UTRs on the same DNA sequence strand, alternatively spliced genes that encode distinct, non-overlapping peptides, and numerous nested genes.
Identification of so many unusual gene models not only suggests that some mechanisms for gene regulation are more prevalent than previously believed, but also underscores the complex challenges of eukaryotic gene prediction. At present, experimental data and human curation remain essential to generate high-quality genome annotations.
PMCID: PMC151185  PMID: 12537572

Results 1-5 (5)