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1.  Identification and Functional Analysis of Healing Regulators in Drosophila 
PLoS Genetics  2015;11(2):e1004965.
Wound healing is an essential homeostatic mechanism that maintains the epithelial barrier integrity after tissue damage. Although we know the overall steps in wound healing, many of the underlying molecular mechanisms remain unclear. Genetically amenable systems, such as wound healing in Drosophila imaginal discs, do not model all aspects of the repair process. However, they do allow the less understood aspects of the healing response to be explored, e.g., which signal(s) are responsible for initiating tissue remodeling? How is sealing of the epithelia achieved? Or, what inhibitory cues cancel the healing machinery upon completion? Answering these and other questions first requires the identification and functional analysis of wound specific genes. A variety of different microarray analyses of murine and humans have identified characteristic profiles of gene expression at the wound site, however, very few functional studies in healing regulation have been carried out. We developed an experimentally controlled method that is healing-permissive and that allows live imaging and biochemical analysis of cultured imaginal discs. We performed comparative genome-wide profiling between Drosophila imaginal cells actively involved in healing versus their non-engaged siblings. Sets of potential wound-specific genes were subsequently identified. Importantly, besides identifying and categorizing new genes, we functionally tested many of their gene products by genetic interference and overexpression in healing assays. This non-saturated analysis defines a relevant set of genes whose changes in expression level are functionally significant for proper tissue repair. Amongst these we identified the TCP1 chaperonin complex as a key regulator of the actin cytoskeleton essential for the wound healing response. There is promise that our newly identified wound-healing genes will guide future work in the more complex mammalian wound healing response.
Author Summary
Two major challenges in our understanding of epithelial repair and regeneration is the identification of the signals triggered after injury and the characterization of mechanisms initiated during tissue repair. From a clinical perspective, a key question that remains unanswered is “Why do some wounds fail to heal?” Considering the low genetic redundancy of Drosophila and its high degree of conservation of fundamental functions, the analysis of wound closure in imaginal discs, whose features are comparable to other post-injury events, seems to be a good model. To proceed to genomic studies, we developed a healing-permissive in vitro culture system for discs. Employing this method and microarray analysis, we aimed to identify relevant genes that are involved in healing. We compared cells that were actively involved in healing to those not involved, and identified a set of upregulated or downregulated genes. They were annotated, clustered by expression profiles, chromosomal locations, and presumptive functions. Most importantly, we functionally tested them in a healing assay. This led to the selection of a group of genes whose changes in expression level and functionality are significant for proper tissue repair. Data obtained from these analyses must facilitate the targeting of these genes in gene therapy or pharmacological studies in mammals.
PMCID: PMC4315591  PMID: 25647511
2.  The BTB-zinc Finger Transcription Factor Abrupt Acts as an Epithelial Oncogene in Drosophila melanogaster through Maintaining a Progenitor-like Cell State 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(7):e1003627.
The capacity of tumour cells to maintain continual overgrowth potential has been linked to the commandeering of normal self-renewal pathways. Using an epithelial cancer model in Drosophila melanogaster, we carried out an overexpression screen for oncogenes capable of cooperating with the loss of the epithelial apico-basal cell polarity regulator, scribbled (scrib), and identified the cell fate regulator, Abrupt, a BTB-zinc finger protein. Abrupt overexpression alone is insufficient to transform cells, but in cooperation with scrib loss of function, Abrupt promotes the formation of massive tumours in the eye/antennal disc. The steroid hormone receptor coactivator, Taiman (a homologue of SRC3/AIB1), is known to associate with Abrupt, and Taiman overexpression also drives tumour formation in cooperation with the loss of Scrib. Expression arrays and ChIP-Seq indicates that Abrupt overexpression represses a large number of genes, including steroid hormone-response genes and multiple cell fate regulators, thereby maintaining cells within an epithelial progenitor-like state. The progenitor-like state is characterised by the failure to express the conserved Eyes absent/Dachshund regulatory complex in the eye disc, and in the antennal disc by the failure to express cell fate regulators that define the temporal elaboration of the appendage along the proximo-distal axis downstream of Distalless. Loss of scrib promotes cooperation with Abrupt through impaired Hippo signalling, which is required and sufficient for cooperative overgrowth with Abrupt, and JNK (Jun kinase) signalling, which is required for tumour cell migration/invasion but not overgrowth. These results thus identify a novel cooperating oncogene, identify mammalian family members of which are also known oncogenes, and demonstrate that epithelial tumours in Drosophila can be characterised by the maintenance of a progenitor-like state.
Author Summary
Cancer is a multigenic process, involving cooperative interactions between oncogenes or tumour suppressors. In this study, in a genetic screen in the vinegar fly, Drosophila melanogaster, for genes that cooperate with a mutation in the cell polarity (shape) regulator, scribbled (scrib), we identify a novel cooperative oncogene, abrupt. Expression of abrupt in scrib mutant tissue in the developing eye/antennal epithelium results in overgrown invasive tumours. abrupt encodes a BTB-zinc finger transcription factor, which has homology to several cancer-causing proteins in humans, such as BCL6. Analysis of the Abrupt targets and misexpressed genes in abrupt expressing-tissue and abrupt-expressing scrib mutant tumours, revealed cell fate regulators as a major class of targets. Thus, our results reveal that deregulation of multiple cell fate factors by Abrupt expression in the context of polarity disruption is associated with a progenitor-like cell state and the formation of overgrown invasive tumours. Our findings suggest that defective polarity may also be a critical factor in BTB-zinc finger-driven human cancers, and warrants further investigation into this issue.
PMCID: PMC3715428  PMID: 23874226
3.  Plasticity of the MAPK Signaling Network in Response to Mechanical Stress 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e101963.
Cells display versatile responses to mechanical inputs and recent studies have identified the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) cascades mediating the biological effects observed upon mechanical stimulation. Although, MAPK pathways can act insulated from each other, several mechanisms facilitate the crosstalk between the components of these cascades. Yet, the combinatorial complexity of potential molecular interactions between these elements have prevented the understanding of their concerted functions. To analyze the plasticity of the MAPK signaling network in response to mechanical stress we performed a non-saturating epistatic screen in resting and stretched conditions employing as readout a JNK responsive dJun-FRET biosensor. By knocking down MAPKs, and JNK pathway regulators, singly or in pairs in Drosophila S2R+ cells, we have uncovered unexpected regulatory links between JNK cascade kinases, Rho GTPases, MAPKs and the JNK phosphatase Puc. These relationships have been integrated in a system network model at equilibrium accounting for all experimentally validated interactions. This model allows predicting the global reaction of the network to its modulation in response to mechanical stress. It also highlights its context-dependent sensitivity.
PMCID: PMC4099004  PMID: 25025279
4.  Local Transformations of Androgens into Estradiol by Aromatase P450 Is Involved in the Regulation of Prolactin and the Proliferation of Pituitary Prolactin-Positive Cells 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e101403.
In previous studies we demonstrated the immunohistochemical expression of aromatase in pituitary cells. In order to determine whether pituitary aromatase is involved in the paracrine regulation of prolactin-producing pituitary cells and the physiological relevance of pituitary aromatase in the control of these cells, an in vivo and in vitro immunocytochemical and morphometric study of prolactin-positive pituitary cells was carried out on the pituitary glands of adult male rats treated with the aromatase antagonist fadrozole. Moreover, we analyzed the expression of mRNA for the enzyme in pituitary cells of male adult rats by in situ hybridization. The aromatase-mRNA was seen to be located in the cytoplasm of 41% of pituitary cells and was well correlated with the immunocytochemical staining. After in vivo treatment with fadrozole, the size (cellular and nuclear areas) of prolactin cells, as well as the percentage of prolactin-positive cells and the percentage of proliferating-prolactin cells, was significantly decreased. Moreover, fadrozole decreased serum prolactin levels. In vitro, treatment with fadrozole plus testosterone induced similar effects on prolactin-positive cells, inhibiting their cellular proliferation. Our results suggest that under physiological conditions aromatase P450 exerts a relevant control over male pituitary prolactin-cells, probably transforming testosterone to estradiol in the pituitary gland.
PMCID: PMC4076335  PMID: 24978194
5.  Distinct tissue-specific requirements for the zebrafish tbx5 genes during heart, retina and pectoral fin development 
Open Biology  2014;4(4):140014.
The transcription factor Tbx5 is expressed in the developing heart, eyes and anterior appendages. Mutations in human TBX5 cause Holt–Oram syndrome, a condition characterized by heart and upper limb malformations. Tbx5-knockout mouse embryos have severely impaired forelimb and heart morphogenesis from the earliest stages of their development. However, zebrafish embryos with compromised tbx5 function show a complete absence of pectoral fins, while heart development is disturbed at significantly later developmental stages and eye development remains to be thoroughly analysed. We identified a novel tbx5 gene in zebrafish—tbx5b—that is co-expressed with its paralogue, tbx5a, in the developing eye and heart and hypothesized that functional redundancy could be occurring in these organs in embryos with impaired tbx5a function. We have now investigated the consequences of tbx5a and/or tbx5b downregulation in zebrafish to reveal that tbx5 genes have essential roles in the establishment of cardiac laterality, dorsoventral retina axis organization and pectoral fin development. Our data show that distinct relationships between tbx5 paralogues are required in a tissue-specific manner to ensure the proper morphogenesis of the three organs in which they are expressed. Furthermore, we uncover a novel role for tbx5 genes in the establishment of correct heart asymmetry in zebrafish embryos.
PMCID: PMC4043114  PMID: 24759614
developmental biology; zebrafish; limb; retina; heart; tbx5
6.  CBS: an open platform that integrates predictive methods and epigenetics information to characterize conserved regulatory features in multiple Drosophila genomes 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:688.
Information about the composition of regulatory regions is of great value for designing experiments to functionally characterize gene expression. The multiplicity of available applications to predict transcription factor binding sites in a particular locus contrasts with the substantial computational expertise that is demanded to manipulate them, which may constitute a potential barrier for the experimental community.
CBS (Conserved regulatory Binding Sites, is a public platform of evolutionarily conserved binding sites and enhancers predicted in multiple Drosophila genomes that is furnished with published chromatin signatures associated to transcriptionally active regions and other experimental sources of information. The rapid access to this novel body of knowledge through a user-friendly web interface enables non-expert users to identify the binding sequences available for any particular gene, transcription factor, or genome region.
The CBS platform is a powerful resource that provides tools for data mining individual sequences and groups of co-expressed genes with epigenomics information to conduct regulatory screenings in Drosophila.
PMCID: PMC3564944  PMID: 23228284
Gene regulation; Genomics; Epigenomics; Comparative genomics; ChIP-seq
7.  ReLA, a local alignment search tool for the identification of distal and proximal gene regulatory regions and their conserved transcription factor binding sites 
Bioinformatics  2012;28(6):763-770.
Motivation: The prediction and annotation of the genomic regions involved in gene expression has been largely explored. Most of the energy has been devoted to the development of approaches that detect transcription start sites, leaving the identification of regulatory regions and their functional transcription factor binding sites (TFBSs) largely unexplored and with important quantitative and qualitative methodological gaps.
Results: We have developed ReLA (for REgulatory region Local Alignment tool), a unique tool optimized with the Smith–Waterman algorithm that allows local searches of conserved TFBS clusters and the detection of regulatory regions proximal to genes and enhancer regions. ReLA's performance shows specificities of 81 and 50% when tested on experimentally validated proximal regulatory regions and enhancers, respectively.
Availability: The source code of ReLA's is freely available and can be remotely used through our web server under
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
PMCID: PMC3307110  PMID: 22253291
8.  Use of ChIP-Seq data for the design of a multiple promoter-alignment method 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;40(7):e52.
We address the challenge of regulatory sequence alignment with a new method, Pro-Coffee, a multiple aligner specifically designed for homologous promoter regions. Pro-Coffee uses a dinucleotide substitution matrix estimated on alignments of functional binding sites from TRANSFAC. We designed a validation framework using several thousand families of orthologous promoters. This dataset was used to evaluate the accuracy for predicting true human orthologs among their paralogs. We found that whereas other methods achieve on average 73.5% accuracy, and 77.6% when trained on that same dataset, the figure goes up to 80.4% for Pro-Coffee. We then applied a novel validation procedure based on multi-species ChIP-seq data. Trained and untrained methods were tested for their capacity to correctly align experimentally detected binding sites. Whereas the average number of correctly aligned sites for two transcription factors is 284 for default methods and 316 for trained methods, Pro-Coffee achieves 331, 16.5% above the default average. We find a high correlation between a method's performance when classifying orthologs and its ability to correctly align proven binding sites. Not only has this interesting biological consequences, it also allows us to conclude that any method that is trained on the ortholog data set will result in functionally more informative alignments.
PMCID: PMC3326335  PMID: 22230796
9.  Integrin-Dependent Activation of the JNK Signaling Pathway by Mechanical Stress 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e26182.
Mechanical force is known to modulate the activity of the Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) signaling cascade. However, the effect of mechanical stresses on JNK signaling activation has previously only been analyzed by in vitro detection methods. It still remains unknown how living cells activate the JNK signaling cascade in response to mechanical stress and what its functions are in stretched cells.
We assessed in real-time the activity of the JNK pathway in Drosophila cells by Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging Microscopy (FLIM), using an intramolecular phosphorylation-dependent dJun-FRET (Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer) biosensor. We found that quantitative FRET-FLIM analysis and confocal microscopy revealed sustained dJun-FRET biosensor activation and stable morphology changes in response to mechanical stretch for Drosophila S2R+ cells. Further, these cells plated on different substrates showed distinct levels of JNK activity that associate with differences in cell morphology, integrin expression and focal adhesion organization.
These data imply that alterations in the cytoskeleton and matrix attachments may act as regulators of JNK signaling, and that JNK activity might feed back to modulate the cytoskeleton and cell adhesion. We found that this dynamic system is highly plastic; at rest, integrins at focal adhesions and talin are key factors suppressing JNK activity, while multidirectional static stretch leads to integrin-dependent, and probably talin-independent, Jun sensor activation. Further, our data suggest that JNK activity has to coordinate with other signaling elements for the regulation of the cytoskeleton and cell shape remodeling associated with stretch.
PMCID: PMC3236745  PMID: 22180774
10.  Genome-wide chromatin occupancy analysis reveals a role for ASH2 in transcriptional pausing 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;39(11):4628-4639.
An important mechanism for gene regulation involves chromatin changes via histone modification. One such modification is histone H3 lysine 4 trimethylation (H3K4me3), which requires histone methyltranferase complexes (HMT) containing the trithorax-group (trxG) protein ASH2. Mutations in ash2 cause a variety of pattern formation defects in the Drosophila wing. We have identified genome-wide binding of ASH2 in wing imaginal discs using chromatin immunoprecipitation combined with sequencing (ChIP-Seq). Our results show that genes with functions in development and transcriptional regulation are activated by ASH2 via H3K4 trimethylation in nearby nucleosomes. We have characterized the occupancy of phosphorylated forms of RNA Polymerase II and histone marks associated with activation and repression of transcription. ASH2 occupancy correlates with phosphorylated forms of RNA Polymerase II and histone activating marks in expressed genes. Additionally, RNA Polymerase II phosphorylation on serine 5 and H3K4me3 are reduced in ash2 mutants in comparison to wild-type flies. Finally, we have identified specific motifs associated with ASH2 binding in genes that are differentially expressed in ash2 mutants. Our data suggest that recruitment of the ASH2-containing HMT complexes is context specific and points to a function of ASH2 and H3K4me3 in transcriptional pausing control.
PMCID: PMC3113561  PMID: 21310711
11.  Gene expression following induction of regeneration in Drosophila wing imaginal discs. Expression profile of regenerating wing discs 
Regeneration is the ability of an organism to rebuild a body part that has been damaged or amputated, and can be studied at the molecular level using model organisms. Drosophila imaginal discs, which are the larval primordia of adult cuticular structures, are capable of undergoing regenerative growth after transplantation and in vivo culture into the adult abdomen.
Using expression profile analyses, we studied the regenerative behaviour of wing discs at 0, 24 and 72 hours after fragmentation and implantation into adult females. Based on expression level, we generated a catalogue of genes with putative role in wing disc regeneration, identifying four classes: 1) genes with differential expression within the first 24 hours; 2) genes with differential expression between 24 and 72 hours; 3) genes that changed significantly in expression levels between the two time periods; 4) genes with a sustained increase or decrease in their expression levels throughout regeneration. Among these genes, we identified members of the JNK and Notch signalling pathways and chromatin regulators. Through computational analysis, we recognized putative binding sites for transcription factors downstream of these pathways that are conserved in multiple Drosophilids, indicating a potential relationship between members of the different gene classes. Experimental data from genetic mutants provide evidence of a requirement of selected genes in wing disc regeneration.
We have been able to distinguish various classes of genes involved in early and late steps of the regeneration process. Our data suggests the integration of signalling pathways in the promoters of regulated genes.
PMCID: PMC2939566  PMID: 20813047
12.  Hnf1α (MODY3) Controls Tissue-Specific Transcriptional Programs and Exerts Opposed Effects on Cell Growth in Pancreatic Islets and Liver▿ †  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2009;29(11):2945-2959.
Heterozygous HNF1A mutations cause pancreatic-islet β-cell dysfunction and monogenic diabetes (MODY3). Hnf1α is known to regulate numerous hepatic genes, yet knowledge of its function in pancreatic islets is more limited. We now show that Hnf1a deficiency in mice leads to highly tissue-specific changes in the expression of genes involved in key functions of both islets and liver. To gain insights into the mechanisms of tissue-specific Hnf1α regulation, we integrated expression studies of Hnf1a-deficient mice with identification of direct Hnf1α targets. We demonstrate that Hnf1α can bind in a tissue-selective manner to genes that are expressed only in liver or islets. We also show that Hnf1α is essential only for the transcription of a minor fraction of its direct-target genes. Even among genes that were expressed in both liver and islets, the subset of targets showing functional dependence on Hnf1α was highly tissue specific. This was partly explained by the compensatory occupancy by the paralog Hnf1β at selected genes in Hnf1a-deficient liver. In keeping with these findings, the biological consequences of Hnf1a deficiency were markedly different in islets and liver. Notably, Hnf1a deficiency led to impaired large-T-antigen-induced growth and oncogenesis in β cells yet enhanced proliferation in hepatocytes. Collectively, these findings show that Hnf1α governs broad, highly tissue-specific genetic programs in pancreatic islets and liver and reveal key consequences of Hnf1a deficiency relevant to the pathophysiology of monogenic diabetes.
PMCID: PMC2682018  PMID: 19289501
13.  Coordinate control of synaptic-layer specificity and rhodopsins in photoreceptor neurons 
Nature  2008;456(7223):795-799.
How neurons make specific synaptic connections is a central question in neurobiology. The targeting of the Drosophila R7 and R8 photoreceptor axons to different synaptic layers in the brain provides a model with which to explore the genetic programs regulating target specificity. In principle this can be accomplished by cell-type-specific molecules mediating the recognition between synaptic partners1. Alternatively, specificity could also be achieved through cell-type-specific repression of particular targeting molecules. Here we show that a key step in the targeting of the R7 neuron is the active repression of the R8 targeting program. Repression is dependent on NF-YC, a subunit of the NF-Y (nuclear factor Y) transcription factor2. In the absence of NF-YC, R7 axons terminate in the same layer as R8 axons. Genetic experiments indicate that this is due solely to the derepression of the R8-specific transcription factor Senseless3 (Sens) late in R7 differentiation. Sens is sufficient to control R8 targeting specificity and we demonstrate that Sens directly binds to an evolutionarily conserved DNA sequence upstream of the start of transcription of an R8-specific cell-surface protein, Capricious (Caps) that regulates R8 target specificity. We show that R7 targeting requires the R7-specific transcription factor Prospero4,5 (Pros) in parallel to repression of the R8targetingpathway by NF-YC. Previous studies demonstrated that Sens6,7 and Pros8 directly regulate the expression of specific rhodopsins in R8 and R7. We propose that the use of the same transcription factors to promote the cell-type-specific expression of sensory receptors and cell-surface proteins regulating synaptic target specificity provides a simple and general mechanism for ensuring that transmission of sensory information is processed by the appropriate specialized neural circuits.
PMCID: PMC2727603  PMID: 18978774
14.  Phosphorylation Networks Regulating JNK Activity in Diverse Genetic Backgrounds 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2008;322(5900):453-456.
Cellular signaling networks have evolved to enable swift and accurate responses, even in the face of genetic or environmental perturbation. Thus, genetic screens may not identify all the genes that regulate different biological processes. Moreover, although classical screening approaches have succeeded in providing parts lists of the essential components of signaling networks, they typically do not provide much insight into the hierarchical and functional relations that exist among these components. We describe a high-throughput screen in which we used RNA interference to systematically inhibit two genes simultaneously in 17,724 combinations to identify regulators of Drosophila JUN NH2-terminal kinase (JNK). Using both genetic and phosphoproteomics data, we then implemented an integrative network algorithm to construct a JNK phosphorylation network, which provides structural and mechanistic insights into the systems architecture of JNK signaling.
PMCID: PMC2581798  PMID: 18927396
15.  Dynamic Control of Cell Cycle and Growth Coupling by Ecdysone, EGFR, and PI3K Signaling in Drosophila Histoblasts 
PLoS Biology  2009;7(4):e1000079.
Regulation of cell proliferation has been extensively studied in cultured cell systems that are characterized by coordinated growth and cell-cycle progression and relatively uniform cell size distribution. During the development of multicellular organisms, however, growth and division can be temporally uncoupled, and the signaling pathways that regulate these growth programs are poorly understood. A good model for analyzing proliferation control in such systems is the morphogenesis of the Drosophila adult abdominal epidermis by histoblasts. These cells undergo a series of temporally regulated transitions during which neither cell size nor division rate is constant. The proliferation of histoblasts during metamorphosis is uniquely amenable to clonal analysis in combination with live imaging. Thereby, we show that abdominal histoblasts, which grow while in G2 arrest during larval stages, enter a proliferative stage in the pupal period that is initiated by ecdysone-dependent string/Cdc25 phosphatase transcription. The proliferating histoblasts have preaccumulated stores of Cyclin E, which trigger an immediate S phase onset after mitosis. These rapid cell cycles lack a G1 phase and result in a progressive reduction of cell size. Eventually, the histoblasts proceed to a stage of slower proliferation that, in contrast to the preceding, depends on epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) signaling for progression through the G2/M transition and on insulin receptor/PI3K-mediated signaling for growth. These results uncover the developmentally programmed changes coupling the growth and proliferation of the histoblasts that form the abdominal epidermis of Drosophila. Histoblasts proceed through three distinct stages: growth without division, division without growth, and growth-coupled proliferation. Our identification of the signaling pathways and cell-cycle regulators that control these programs illustrates the power of in vivo time-lapse analyses after clone induction. It sets the stage for the comprehensive understanding of the coordination of cell growth and cell-cycle progression in complex multicellular eukaryotes.
Author Summary
A fundamental issue in biology is the question of how the rate of cell division is coupled to cell growth. Coordination of these processes has been studied extensively in cultured cell systems but to a much lesser extent in intact organisms. To study this phenomenon in a physiological setting, we developed a methodology to observe and manipulate cell division and growth in a population of Drosophila abdominal cells called histoblasts. The various developmental stages of histoblast morphogenesis include exit from cell-cycle arrest, initially rapid growth in the absence of cell division, and subsequent coupling of proliferation and growth. We identified several critical developmental signaling pathways (including signaling via ecdysone, the EGF receptor, and PI 3-kinase) that regulate and coordinate cell growth and division cycles during these different types of cell-cycle phenomena. We propose that the internal logic of the Drosophila histoblast system may serve as a basic framework for understanding not only how coordinated cell growth and division operate in a number of other developmental contexts, but also how misregulation of cell growth and division occurs in contexts such as cancer cell populations.
Integration of the ecdysone, EGF receptor, and PI 3-kinase signaling pathways determines the relative rates of growth and cell division duringDrosophila abdominal cell morphogenesis.
PMCID: PMC2672598  PMID: 19355788
16.  Conserved chromosomal clustering of genes governed by chromatin regulators in Drosophila 
Genome Biology  2008;9(9):R134.
Transcriptional analysis of chromatin regulator mutants in Drosophila melanogaster identified clusters of functionally related genes conserved in other insect species.
The trithorax group (trxG) and Polycomb group (PcG) proteins are responsible for the maintenance of stable transcriptional patterns of many developmental regulators. They bind to specific regions of DNA and direct the post-translational modifications of histones, playing a role in the dynamics of chromatin structure.
We have performed genome-wide expression studies of trx and ash2 mutants in Drosophila melanogaster. Using computational analysis of our microarray data, we have identified 25 clusters of genes potentially regulated by TRX. Most of these clusters consist of genes that encode structural proteins involved in cuticle formation. This organization appears to be a distinctive feature of the regulatory networks of TRX and other chromatin regulators, since we have observed the same arrangement in clusters after experiments performed with ASH2, as well as in experiments performed by others with NURF, dMyc, and ASH1. We have also found many of these clusters to be significantly conserved in D. simulans, D. yakuba, D. pseudoobscura and partially in Anopheles gambiae.
The analysis of genes governed by chromatin regulators has led to the identification of clusters of functionally related genes conserved in other insect species, suggesting this chromosomal organization is biologically important. Moreover, our results indicate that TRX and other chromatin regulators may act globally on chromatin domains that contain transcriptionally co-regulated genes.
PMCID: PMC2592712  PMID: 18783608
17.  ORegAnno: an open-access community-driven resource for regulatory annotation 
Nucleic Acids Research  2007;36(Database issue):D107-D113.
ORegAnno is an open-source, open-access database and literature curation system for community-based annotation of experimentally identified DNA regulatory regions, transcription factor binding sites and regulatory variants. The current release comprises 30 145 records curated from 922 publications and describing regulatory sequences for over 3853 genes and 465 transcription factors from 19 species. A new feature called the ‘publication queue’ allows users to input relevant papers from scientific literature as targets for annotation. The queue contains 4438 gene regulation papers entered by experts and another 54 351 identified by text-mining methods. Users can enter or ‘check out’ papers from the queue for manual curation using a series of user-friendly annotation pages. A typical record entry consists of species, sequence type, sequence, target gene, binding factor, experimental outcome and one or more lines of experimental evidence. An evidence ontology was developed to describe and categorize these experiments. Records are cross-referenced to Ensembl or Entrez gene identifiers, PubMed and dbSNP and can be visualized in the Ensembl or UCSC genome browsers. All data are freely available through search pages, XML data dumps or web services at:
PMCID: PMC2239002  PMID: 18006570
18.  Multiple non-collinear TF-map alignments of promoter regions 
BMC Bioinformatics  2007;8:138.
The analysis of the promoter sequence of genes with similar expression patterns is a basic tool to annotate common regulatory elements. Multiple sequence alignments are on the basis of most comparative approaches. The characterization of regulatory regions from co-expressed genes at the sequence level, however, does not yield satisfactory results in many occasions as promoter regions of genes sharing similar expression programs often do not show nucleotide sequence conservation.
In a recent approach to circumvent this limitation, we proposed to align the maps of predicted transcription factors (referred as TF-maps) instead of the nucleotide sequence of two related promoters, taking into account the label of the corresponding factor and the position in the primary sequence. We have now extended the basic algorithm to permit multiple promoter comparisons using the progressive alignment paradigm. In addition, non-collinear conservation blocks might now be identified in the resulting alignments. We have optimized the parameters of the algorithm in a small, but well-characterized collection of human-mouse-chicken-zebrafish orthologous gene promoters.
Results in this dataset indicate that TF-map alignments are able to detect high-level regulatory conservation at the promoter and the 3'UTR gene regions, which cannot be detected by the typical sequence alignments. Three particular examples are introduced here to illustrate the power of the multiple TF-map alignments to characterize conserved regulatory elements in absence of sequence similarity. We consider this kind of approach can be extremely useful in the future to annotate potential transcription factor binding sites on sets of co-regulated genes from high-throughput expression experiments.
PMCID: PMC1878506  PMID: 17456238
19.  Transcription Factor Map Alignment of Promoter Regions 
PLoS Computational Biology  2006;2(5):e49.
We address the problem of comparing and characterizing the promoter regions of genes with similar expression patterns. This remains a challenging problem in sequence analysis, because often the promoter regions of co-expressed genes do not show discernible sequence conservation. In our approach, thus, we have not directly compared the nucleotide sequence of promoters. Instead, we have obtained predictions of transcription factor binding sites, annotated the predicted sites with the labels of the corresponding binding factors, and aligned the resulting sequences of labels—to which we refer here as transcription factor maps (TF-maps). To obtain the global pairwise alignment of two TF-maps, we have adapted an algorithm initially developed to align restriction enzyme maps. We have optimized the parameters of the algorithm in a small, but well-curated, collection of human–mouse orthologous gene pairs. Results in this dataset, as well as in an independent much larger dataset from the CISRED database, indicate that TF-map alignments are able to uncover conserved regulatory elements, which cannot be detected by the typical sequence alignments.
Sequence comparisons and alignments are among the most powerful tools in research in biology. Since similar sequences play, in general, similar functions, identification of sequence conservation between two or more nucleotide or amino acid sequences is often used to infer common biological functionality. Sequence comparisons, however, have limitations; often similar functions are encoded by higher order elements which do not hold a univocal relationship to the underlying primary sequence. In consequence, similar functions are frequently encoded by diverse sequences. Promoter regions are a case in point. Often, promoter sequences of genes with similar expression patterns do not show conservation. This is because, even though their expression may be regulated by a similar arrangement of transcription factors, the binding sites for these factors may exhibit great sequence variability. To overcome this limitation, the authors obtain predictions of transcription factor binding sites on promoter sequences, and annotate the predicted sites with the labels of the corresponding transcription factors. They develop an algorithm—inspired in an early algorithm to align restriction enzyme maps—to align the resulting sequence of labels—the so-called TF-maps (transcription factor maps). They show that TF-map alignments are able to uncover conserved regulatory elements common to the promoter regions of co-regulated genes, but those regulatory elements cannot be detected by typical sequence alignments.
PMCID: PMC1464811  PMID: 16733547
20.  ABS: a database of Annotated regulatory Binding Sites from orthologous promoters 
Nucleic Acids Research  2005;34(Database issue):D63-D67.
Information about the genomic coordinates and the sequence of experimentally identified transcription factor binding sites is found scattered under a variety of diverse formats. The availability of standard collections of such high-quality data is important to design, evaluate and improve novel computational approaches to identify binding motifs on promoter sequences from related genes. ABS () is a public database of known binding sites identified in promoters of orthologous vertebrate genes that have been manually curated from bibliography. We have annotated 650 experimental binding sites from 68 transcription factors and 100 orthologous target genes in human, mouse, rat or chicken genome sequences. Computational predictions and promoter alignment information are also provided for each entry. A simple and easy-to-use web interface facilitates data retrieval allowing different views of the information. In addition, the release 1.0 of ABS includes a customizable generator of artificial datasets based on the known sites contained in the collection and an evaluation tool to aid during the training and the assessment of motif-finding programs.
PMCID: PMC1347478  PMID: 16381947

Results 1-20 (20)