The Drosophila Bithorax-Complex (BX-C) Hox cluster contains a bidirectionally-transcribed miRNA locus, and a deletion mutant (∆mir) lays no eggs and is completely sterile. We show these miRNAs are expressed and active in distinct spatial registers along the anterior-posterior axis in the central nervous system. ∆mir larvae derepress a network of direct homeobox gene targets in the posterior ventral nerve cord (VNC), including BX-C genes and their TALE cofactors. These are phenotypically critical targets, since sterility of ∆mir mutants was substantially rescued by heterozygosity of these genes. The posterior VNC contains Ilp7+ oviduct motoneurons, whose innervation and morphology are defective in ∆mir females, and substantially rescued by heterozygosity of ∆mir targets, especially within the BX-C. Collectively, we reveal (1) critical roles for Hox miRNAs that determine segment-specific expression of homeotic genes, which are not masked by transcriptional regulation, and (2) that BX-C miRNAs are essential for neural patterning and reproductive behavior.
microRNAs (miRNAs) are an abundant class of ~22 nucleotide (nt) regulatory RNAs that are pervasive in higher eukaryotic genomes. In order to fully understand their prominence in genomes, it is necessary to elucidate the molecular mechanisms that can diversify miRNA activities. In this review, we describe some of the many strategies that allow novel miRNA functions to emerge, with particular emphasis on how miRNA genes evolve in animals. These mechanisms include changes in their sequence, processing, or expression pattern; acquisition of miRNA* functionality or antisense processing; and de novo gene birth. The facility and versatility of miRNAs to evolve and change likely underlies how they have become dominant constituents of higher genomes.
microRNA; evolution; subfunctionalization; neofunctionalization
Although a great deal is known about the identity, biogenesis, and targeting capacity of microRNAs (miRNAs) in animal cells, far less is known about their functional requirements at the organismal level. Much remains to be understood about the necessity of miRNAs for overt phenotypes, the identity of critical miRNA targets, and the control of miRNA transcription. In this review, we provide an overview of genetic strategies to study miRNAs in the Drosophila system, including loss- and gain-of-function techniques, genetic interaction strategies, and transgenic reporters of miRNA expression and activity. As we illustrate the usage of these techniques in intact Drosophila, we see certain recurrent themes for miRNA functions, including energy homeostasis, apoptosis suppression, growth control, and regulation of core cell signaling pathways. Overall, we hope that this exposition of Drosophila genetic techniques, well-known to the legions of fly geneticists and used to study all genes, can inform the general miRNA community that focuses on other biochemical, molecular, computational, and structural avenues. Clearly, it is the combination of these myriad techniques that has accelerated miRNA research to its extraordinary pace.
In this issue of Developmental Cell, Drake and colleagues (2014) report that Ras signaling results in Dicer phosphorylation, which induces its nuclear localization and modulates its function. This regulatory strategy, conserved in mammals, allows dynamic control of miRNA function required for C. elegans germline development and oogenesis.
CCR4 deadenylase; mRNA decay; nanos; piRNA; RNA silencing; Translational control
Alternative cleavage and polyadenylation (APA) can diversify coding and non-coding regions, but has particular impact on increasing 3′ UTR diversity. Through the gain or loss of regulatory elements such as RNA binding protein and microRNA sites, APA can influence transcript stability, localization, and translational efficiency. Strikingly, the central nervous systems of invertebrate and vertebrate species express a broad range of transcript isoforms bearing extended 3′ UTRs. The molecular mechanism that permits proximal 3′ end bypass in neurons is mysterious, and only beginning to be elucidated. This landscape of neural 3′ UTR extensions, many reaching unprecedented lengths, may help service the unique post-transcriptional regulatory needs of neurons. A combination of approaches, including transcriptome-wide profiling, genetic screening to identify APA factors, biochemical dissection of alternative 3′ end formation, and manipulation of individual neural APA targets, will be necessary to gain fuller perspectives on the mechanism and biology of neural-specific 3′ UTR lengthening.
While most miRNA knockouts exhibit only subtle defects, a handful of miRNAs are profoundly required for development or physiology. A particularly compelling locus is Drosophila mir-279, which was reported as essential to restrict the emergence of CO2-sensing neurons, to maintain circadian rhythm, and to regulate ovarian border cells. The mir-996 locus is located near mir-279 and bears a similar seed, but they otherwise have distinct, conserved, non-seed sequences, suggesting their evolutionary maintenance for separate functions. We generated single and double deletion mutants of the mir-279 and mir-996 hairpins, and cursory analysis suggested that miR-996 was dispensable. However, discrepancies in the strength of individual mir-279 deletion alleles led us to uncover that all extant mir-279 mutants are deficient for mature miR-996, even though they retain its genomic locus. We therefore engineered a panel of genomic rescue transgenes into the double deletion background, allowing a pure assessment of miR-279 and miR-996 requirements. Surprisingly, detailed analyses of viability, olfactory neuron specification, and circadian rhythm indicate that miR-279 is completely dispensable. Instead, an endogenous supply of either mir-279 or mir-996 suffices for normal development and behavior. Sensor tests of nine key miR-279/996 targets showed their similar regulatory capacities, although transgenic gain-of-function experiments indicate partially distinct activities of these miRNAs that may underlie that co-maintenance in genomes. Altogether, we elucidate the unexpected genetics of this critical miRNA operon, and provide a foundation for their further study. More importantly, these studies demonstrate that multiple, vital, loss-of-function phenotypes can be rescued by endogenous expression of divergent seed family members, highlighting the importance of this miRNA region for in vivo function.
Amongst the small number of miRNA knockouts that exhibit substantially overt phenotypes, mutants of Drosophila mir-279 are notable. Previous studies have uncovered its essential requirements in a range of developmental and behavioral assays. Surprisingly, we find that the phenotypes attributed to mir-279 deletions depend on the unanticipated loss of expression of the downstream locus mir-996, whose genomic locus is retained in extant mir-279 mutants. These miRNAs share their seed regions but are divergent elsewhere in the mature sequences. We use precise genetic engineering to show that a single endogenous copy of either mir-279 or mir-996 can fully rescue viability, olfactory neuron, and circadian rhythm defects of double deletion animals. These data and genetic reagents set a new foundation for developmental and behavioral studies of this critical miRNA locus. More generally, these data demonstrate that multiple loss-of-function phenotypes can be rescued by endogenous expression of divergent seed family members, highlighting the importance and potentially sufficiency of this region for in vivo function.
Animal transcriptomes are dynamic, each cell type, tissue and organ system expressing an ensemble of transcript isoforms that give rise to substantial diversity. We identified new genes, transcripts, and proteins using poly(A)+ RNA sequence from Drosophila melanogaster cultured cell lines, dissected organ systems, and environmental perturbations. We found 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 noncoding 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 arising from combinatorial usage of promoters, splice sites, and polyadenylation sites.
A canonical biogenesis pathway involving sequential cleavage by the Drosha and Dicer RNAse III enzymes governs the maturation of most animal microRNAs. However, there exist a variety of alternative miRNA biogenesis pathways, most of which bypass Drosha processing. Recently, three groups described for the first time a vertebrate microRNA pathway that bypasses Dicer cleavage. This mechanism was characterized with respect to the highly conserved vertebrate gene mir-451, for which Drosha processing yields a short (42 nucleotide) hairpin that is directly loaded into Ago2, the sole vertebrate “Slicer” Argonaute. Ago2-mediated cleavage of this hairpin yields a 30 nucleotide intermediate, whose 3′ end is resected to generate the dominantly cloned ∼23 nucleotide mature miR-451. Knowledge of this pathway provides an unprecedented tool with which to express microRNAs and small interfering RNAs in Dicer mutant cells. More generally, the mir-451 backbone constitutes a new platform for gene silencing that complements existing shRNA technology.
mir-451; Ago2; Slicer; Dicer-independent; erythropoiesis
Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) is widely used for mapping DNA-protein interactions across eukaryotic genomes in cells, tissues or even whole organisms. Critical to this procedure is the efficient cross-linking of chromatin-associated proteins to DNA sequences that are in close proximity. Since the mid-nineties formaldehyde fixation has been the method of choice. However, some protein-DNA complexes cannot be successfully captured for ChIP using formaldehyde. One such formaldehyde refractory complex is the developmentally regulated insulator factor, Elba. Here we describe a new embryo fixation procedure using the bi-functional cross-linking reagents DSG (disuccinimidyl glutarate) and DSP (dithiobis[succinimidyl propionate). We show that unlike standard formaldehyde fixation protocols, it is possible to capture Elba association with insulator elements in 2–5 h embryos using this new cross-linking procedure. We show that this new cross-linking procedure can also be applied to localize nuclear proteins that are amenable to ChIP using standard formaldehyde cross-linking protocols, and that in the cases tested the enrichment was generally superior to that achieved using formaldehyde cross-linking.
chromatin immunoprecipitation; ChIP; formadelhyde; bi-functional cross-linkers; insulators; DSG DSP; DNA binding; Elba; Insensitive
•Associating liver partition and portal vein ligation for staged hepatectomy (ALPPS) has rarely been reported for patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).•ALPPS is feasible even in the context of HCC with a background of chronic hepatitis B related liver fibrosis.•The hypertrophy rate of the liver remnant was slower and the time needed between the two stages of the operation was longer.
Associating liver partition and portal vein ligation for staged hepatectomy (ALPPS) has recently been developed for patients with predicted insufficient future liver remnant volumes to induce more rapid hepatic hypertrophy and increase resectability. In the medical literature, the use of ALPPS in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) has rarely been reported.
PRESENTATION OF CASE
We reported the use of ALPPS in a patient with primarily unresectable HCC arising from a background of hepatitis B related liver fibrosis. Preoperative computed tomography (CT) showed 2 large conglomerated tumors measuring 16 cm × 10.5 cm in liver segments 5, 6, 7 and 8, and at least 3 satellite nodules with the largest one measuring 3 cm around the main tumor and another 4 cm tumor in segment 4. Right trisectionectomy after ALPPS was successfully performed. He was discharged from hospital on postoperative day 13 after the second operation. Follow-up CT scan at 6 weeks after the second operation showed further hypertrophy of the liver remnant and no liver recurrence.
Our case showed that this novel strategy is feasible even in the context of a background of chronic hepatitis B related liver fibrosis, although the hypertrophy rate was a little bit slower and the time needed was longer.
ALPPS is also feasible in liver fibrosis. It gives hope to patients with HCC who previously were considered as having unresectable diseases. More studies are needed to further evaluate the effectiveness and oncological outcomes of ALPPS from these patients.
ALPPS; PPVE; Trisectionectomy; Future liver remnant; Hepatocellular carcinoma; Hepatitis B
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are endogenous transcripts that contain intramolecular double stranded RNA (dsRNA) and are processed by Dicer. Their mature products are ~21-24 nucleotides in length, and they collectively regulate a broad network of endogenous transcripts. A subset of animal miRNAs are produced from mirtrons, short hairpin introns whose splicing bypasses the normal nuclear processing of canonical miRNAs. Recent studies revealed novel, extended intramolecular dsRNA produced by defined transcription units in flies and mammals, termed hairpin RNAs (hpRNAs). Detailed biogenesis studies in Drosophila showed that hpRNAs are not merely “long” miRNAs, but are actually processed by a distinct biogenesis pathway that is related to the canonical RNA interference pathway. We compare and contrast the miRNA and hpRNA pathways in this review, and describe some of the key questions that the recognition of this novel pathway raises.
microRNA; mirtron; hairpin RNA; siRNA; Drosophila
Next-generation sequencing technologies generate vast catalogs of short RNA sequences from which to mine microRNAs. However, such data must be vetted to appropriately categorize microRNA precursors and interpret their evolution. A recent study annotated hundreds of microRNAs in three Drosophila species on the basis of singleton reads of heterogeneous length1. Our multi-million read datasets indicated that most of these were not substrates of RNAse III cleavage, and comprised many mRNA degradation fragments. We instead identified a distinct and smaller set of novel microRNAs supported by confident cloning signatures, including a high proportion of evolutionarily nascent mirtrons. Our data support a much lower rate in the emergence of lineage-specific microRNAs than previously inferred1, with a net flux of ~1 microRNA/million years of Drosophilid evolution.
microRNAs (miRNAs) are ~22 nucleotide (nt) RNAs that coordinate vast regulatory networks in animals, and thereby influence myriad processes. This review examines evidence that miRNAs play continuous roles in adults, in ways that are separable from developmental control. Adult-specific activities for miRNAs have been described in a variety of stem cell populations, in the context of neural function and cardiovascular biology, in metabolism and physiology, and during cancer. In addition to reviewing recent results, we also discuss methods for studying miRNA activities specifically in adults and evaluate their relative strengths and weaknesses. A fuller understanding of continuous functions of miRNAs in adults has bearing on efforts and opportunities to manipulate miRNAs for therapeutic purposes.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are critical post-transcriptional regulators that may collectively control a majority of animal genes. With thousands of miRNAs identified, a pressing challenge is now to understand their specific biological activities. Many predicted miRNA:target interactions only subtly alter gene activity. It has consequently not been trivial to deduce how miRNAs are relevant to phenotype, and by extension, relevant to disease. We note that the major signal transduction cascades that control animal development are highly dose-sensitive and frequently altered in human disorders. On this basis, we hypothesize that developmental cell signaling pathways represent prime candidates for mediating some of the major phenotypic consequences of miRNA deregulation, especially under gain-of-function conditions. This perspective reviews the evidence for miRNA targeting of the major signaling pathways, and discusses its implications for how aberrant miRNA activity might underlie human disease and cancer.
microRNA; cell-cell signaling; disease; cancer; apoptosis
RNA silencing functions as an adaptive antiviral defense in both plants and animals. In turn, viruses commonly encode suppressors of RNA silencing, which enable them to mount productive infection. These inhibitor proteins may be exploited as reagents with which to probe mechanisms and functions of RNA silencing pathways. In this report, we describe transgenic Drosophila strains that allow inducible expression of the viral RNA silencing inhibitors Flock House virus-B2, Nodamura virus-B2, vaccinia virus-E3L, influenza A virus-NS1 and tombusvirus P19. Some of these, especially the B2 proteins, are effective transgenic inhibitors of double strand RNA-induced gene silencing in flies. On the other hand, none of them is effective against the Drosophila microRNA pathway. Their functional selectivity makes these viral silencing proteins useful reagents with which to study biological functions of the Drosophila RNA interference pathway.
RNAi; virus; microRNA; post-transcriptional; regulation
Introduction. Both hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) presenting during pregnancy and HCC presenting with obstructive jaundice due to a tumor cast in the biliary tract are very rare. The management of these patients remains challenging. Presentation of Case. A 23-year-old lady presented with obstructive jaundice at 38 weeks of gestation. Investigations showed HCC with a biliary tumor thrombus. She received percutaneous transhepatic biliary drainage (PTBD) and caesarean section. Right hepatectomy, extrahepatic bile duct resection, and left hepaticojejunostomy were carried out when the jaundice improved. The postoperative course was uneventful. She was discharged home on postoperative day 10. Histopathology showed HCC with a tumor thrombus in the bile duct. The surgical margins were clear. One year after surgery, the mother was disease-free and the baby was well. Conclusion. With proper management, curative treatment is possible in a pregnant patient who presented with obstructive jaundice due to a biliary tumor thrombus from HCC.
Drosophila Piwi is the founding member of a gonadal clade of Argonaute proteins that serve as silencing effectors for ~26–32 nucleotide piRNAs , and piwi mutants exhibit dramatically rudimentary ovaries . It was proposed that somatic Piwi maintains germline stem cells (GSCs) by promoting Dpp signaling, presumably via cap cells that comprise the somatic niche for GSCs [3–5]. However, we unexpectedly observed that piwi mutants exhibit high-frequency GSC-like tumors that persist throughout adult life. Multiple readouts demonstrated hyperactive Dpp signaling in piwi mutants, including the failure to express the germline differentiation factor bag-of-marbles (bam), and restoration of bam expression relieved piwi GSC-like tumors. Tissue-specific rescue and knockdown experiments indicate that Piwi is not required in cap cells, the source of niche Dpp, but instead in gonadal intermingled cells (ICs, the progenitor cells of escort cells). Adult-specific knockdown of dpp in escort cells substantially rescued piwi tumors, demonstrating that they are driven by excess Dpp signaling. However, the temporal requirement for piwi to restrict GSC numbers was much earlier, in wandering 3rd instar larvae. Indeed, piwi mutant larval gonads exhibited defective morphology and loss of Bam. Our data indicate that loss of Piwi causes defects in ICs and escort cells, leading to ectopic Dpp signaling and consequent blockage of GSC differentiation.
MiRNAs bear an increasing number of functions throughout development and in the aging adult. Here we address their role in establishing sexually dimorphic traits and sexual identity in male and female Drosophila. Our survey of miRNA populations in each sex identifies sets of miRNAs differentially expressed in male and female tissues across various stages of development. The pervasive sex-biased expression of miRNAs generally increases with the complexity and sexual dimorphism of tissues, gonads revealing the most striking biases. We find that the male-specific regulation of the X chromosome is relevant to miRNA expression on two levels. First, in the male gonad, testis-biased miRNAs tend to reside on the X chromosome. Second, in the soma, X-linked miRNAs do not systematically rely on dosage compensation. We set out to address the importance of a sex-biased expression of miRNAs in establishing sexually dimorphic traits. Our study of the conserved let-7-C miRNA cluster controlled by the sex-biased hormone ecdysone places let-7 as a primary modulator of the sex-determination hierarchy. Flies with modified let-7 levels present doublesex-related phenotypes and express sex-determination genes normally restricted to the opposite sex. In testes and ovaries, alterations of the ecdysone-induced let-7 result in aberrant gonadal somatic cell behavior and non-cell-autonomous defects in early germline differentiation. Gonadal defects as well as aberrant expression of sex-determination genes persist in aging adults under hormonal control. Together, our findings place ecdysone and let-7 as modulators of a somatic systemic signal that helps establish and sustain sexual identity in males and females and differentiation in gonads. This work establishes the foundation for a role of miRNAs in sexual dimorphism and demonstrates that similar to vertebrate hormonal control of cellular sexual identity exists in Drosophila.
miRNA; sex determination; ecdysteroid; gonad; development; Drosophila; genetics of sex
Sequencing of multiple related species followed by comparative genomics analysis constitutes a powerful approach for the systematic understanding of any genome. Here, we use the genomes of 12 Drosophila species for the de novo discovery of functional elements in the fly. Each type of functional element shows characteristic patterns of change, or ‘evolutionary signatures’, dictated by its precise selective constraints. Such signatures enable recognition of new protein-coding genes and exons, spurious and incorrect gene annotations, and numerous unusual gene structures, including abundant stop-codon readthrough. Similarly, we predict non-protein-coding RNA genes and structures, and new microRNA (miRNA) genes. We provide evidence of miRNA processing and functionality from both hairpin arms and both DNA strands. We identify several classes of pre- and post-transcriptional regulatory motifs, and predict individual motif instances with high confidence. We also study how discovery power scales with the divergence and number of species compared, and we provide general guidelines for comparative studies.
Skin stem cells (SCs) are specified and rapidly expanded to fuel body growth during early development. However, molecular mechanisms that govern the amplification of skin SCs remain unclear. Here we report an essential role for miR-205, one of the most highly expressed miRNAs in skin SCs, in promoting neonatal expansion of these cells. Unlike most mammalian miRNAs, genetic deletion of miR-205 causes neonatal lethality with severely compromised epidermal and hair follicle growth. In the miR-205 KO skin SCs, phospho-Akt is significantly downregulated, and the SCs prematurely exit the cell cycle. In the hair follicle, this accelerates the transition of the neonatal SCs towards quiescence. We identify multiple miR-205 targeted negative regulators of PI3K signaling that mediate the repression of phospho-Akt and restrict the proliferation of SCs. Our findings reveal an essential role for miR-205 in maintaining the expansion of skin SCs by antagonizing negative regulators of PI3K signaling.
Homeostatic mechanisms regulate the abundance of many small RNA components. We used Drosophila and mammalian systems to demonstrate a conserved homeostatic system in which the status of miRNA biogenesis controls Argonaute protein stability. Clonal analyses of multiple mutants of core Drosophila miRNA factors revealed that stability of the miRNA effector AGO1 is dependent on miRNA biogenesis. Reciprocally, ectopic transcription of miRNAs within in vivo clones induced accumulation of AGO1, as did genetic interference with the ubiquitin-proteasome system. In mammals, we found that the stability of mAgo2 declined in Dicer knockout cells, and was rescued by proteasome blockade or introduction of either Dicer plasmid or Dicer-independent miRNA constructs. Importantly, Dicer-dependent miRNA constructs generated pre-miRNAs that bind Ago2, but did not rescue Ago2 stability. We conclude that Argonaute levels are finely tuned by cellular availability of mature miRNAs and the ubiquitin-proteasome system.
Although Dicer is essential for general microRNA (miRNA) biogenesis, vertebrate mir-451 is Dicer independent. Instead, its short pre-miRNA hairpin is ‘sliced’ by Ago2, then 3′-resected into mature miRNAs. Here, we show that Drosophila cells and animals generate functional small RNAs from mir-451-type precursors. However, their bulk maturation arrests as Ago-cleaved pre-miRNAs, which mostly associate with the RNAi effector AGO2. Routing of pre-mir-451 hairpins to the miRNA effector AGO1 was inhibited by Dicer-1 and its partner Loqs. Loss of these miRNA factors promoted association of pre-mir-451 with AGO1, which sliced them and permitted maturation into ∼23–26 nt products. The difference was due to the 3′ modification of single-stranded species in AGO2 by Hen1 methyltransferase, whose depletion permitted 3′ trimming of Ago-cleaved pre-miRNAs in AGO2. Surprisingly, Nibbler, a 3′–5′ exoribonuclease that trims ‘long’ mature miRNAs in AGO1, antagonized miR-451 processing. We used an in vitro reconstitution assay to identify a soluble, EDTA-sensitive activity that resects sliced pre-miRNAs in AGO1 complexes. Finally, we use deep sequencing to show that depletion of dicer-1 increases the diversity of small RNAs in AGO1, including some candidate mir-451-like loci. Altogether, we document unexpected aspects of miRNA biogenesis and Ago sorting, and provide insights into maturation of Argonaute-cleaved miRNA substrates.
Argonaute 1 (Ago1) is a member of the Argonaute/PIWI protein family involved in small RNA-mediated gene regulation. In Drosophila, Ago1 plays a specific role in microRNA (miRNA) biogenesis and function. Previous studies have demonstrated that Ago1 regulates the fate of germline stem cells. However, the function of Ago1 in other aspects of oogenesis is still elusive. Here we report the function of Ago1 in developing egg chambers. We find that Ago1 protein is enriched in the oocytes and also highly expressed in the cytoplasm of follicle cells. Clonal analysis of multiple ago1 mutant alleles shows that many mutant egg chambers contain only 8 nurse cells without an oocyte which is phenocopied in dicer-1, pasha and drosha mutants. Our results suggest that Ago1 and its miRNA biogenesis partners play a role in oocyte determination and germline cell division in Drosophila.