Low affinity binding sites in an activating CRM mediate negative autoregulation of the Drosophila Hox gene Ultrabithorax.
ABSTRACT: Specification of cell identity and the proper functioning of a mature cell depend on precise regulation of gene expression. Both binary ON/OFF regulation of transcription, as well as more fine-tuned control of transcription levels in the ON state, are required to define cell types. The Drosophila melanogaster Hox gene, Ultrabithorax (Ubx), exhibits both of these modes of control during development. While ON/OFF regulation is needed to specify the fate of the developing wing (Ubx OFF) and haltere (Ubx ON), the levels of Ubx within the haltere differ between compartments along the proximal-distal axis. Here, we identify and molecularly dissect the novel contribution of a previously identified Ubx cis-regulatory module (CRM), anterobithorax (abx), to a negative auto-regulatory loop that decreases Ubx expression in the proximal compartment of the haltere as compared to the distal compartment. We find that Ubx, in complex with the known Hox cofactors, Homothorax (Hth) and Extradenticle (Exd), acts through low-affinity Ubx-Exd binding sites to reduce the levels of Ubx transcription in the proximal compartment. Importantly, we also reveal that Ubx-Exd-binding site mutations sufficient to result in de-repression of abx activity in a transgenic context are not sufficient to de-repress Ubx expression when mutated at the endogenous locus, suggesting the presence of multiple mechanisms through which Ubx-mediated repression occurs. Our results underscore the complementary nature of CRM analysis through transgenic reporter assays and genome modification of the endogenous locus; but, they also highlight the increasing need to understand gene regulation within the native context to capture the potential input of multiple genomic elements on gene control.
Project description:Hox transcription factors are essential for shaping body morphology in development and evolution. The control of Hox protein activity in part arises from interaction with the PBC class of partners, pre-B cell transcription factor (Pbx) proteins in vertebrates and Extradenticle (Exd) in Drosophila. Characterized interactions occur through a single mode, involving a short hexapeptide motif in the Hox protein. This apparent uniqueness in Hox-PBC interaction provides little mechanistic insight in how the same cofactors endow Hox proteins with specific and diverse activities. Here, we identify in the Drosophila Ultrabithorax (Ubx) protein a short motif responsible for an alternative mode of Exd recruitment. Together with previous reports, this finding highlights that the Hox protein Ubx has multiple ways to interact with the Exd cofactor and suggests that flexibility in Hox-PBC contacts contributes to specify and diversify Hox protein function.
Project description:Hox proteins are transcription factors and key regulators of segmental identity along the anterior posterior axis across all bilaterian animals. Despite decades of research, the mechanisms by which Hox proteins select and regulate their targets remain elusive. We have carried out whole-genome ChIP-chip experiments to identify direct targets of Hox protein Ultrabithorax (Ubx) during haltere development in Drosophila. Direct targets identified include upstream regulators or cofactors of Ubx. Homothorax, a cofactor of Ubx during embryonic development, is one such target and is required for normal specification of haltere. Although Ubx bound sequences are conserved amongst various insect genomes, no consensus Ubx-specific motif was detected. Surprisingly, binding motifs for certain transcription factors that function either upstream or downstream to Ubx are enriched in these sequences suggesting complex regulatory loops governing Ubx function. Our data supports the hypothesis that specificity during Hox target selection is achieved by associating with other transcription factors.
Project description:Hox genes encode a family of transcription factors that are key developmental regulators with a highly conserved role in specifying segmental diversity along the metazoan body axis. Although they have been shown to regulate a wide variety of downstream processes, direct transcriptional targets have been difficult to identify and this has been a major obstacle to our understanding of Hox gene function. We report the identification of genome-wide binding sites for the Hox protein Ultrabithorax (Ubx) using a YFP-tagged Drosophila protein-trap line together with chromatin immunoprecipitation and microarray analysis. We identify 1,147 genes bound by Ubx at high confidence in chromatin from the haltere imaginal disc, a prominent site of Ubx function where it specifies haltere versus wing development. The functional relevance of these genes is supported by their overlap with genes differentially expressed between wing and haltere imaginal discs. The Ubx-bound gene set is highly enriched in genes involved in developmental processes and contains both high-level regulators as well as genes involved in more basic cellular functions. Several signalling pathways are highly enriched in the Ubx target gene set and our analysis supports the view that Hox genes regulate many levels of developmental pathways and have targets distributed throughout the gene network. We also performed genome-wide analysis of the binding sites for the Hox cofactor Homothorax (Hth), revealing a striking similarity with the Ubx binding profile. We suggest that these binding profiles may be strongly influenced by chromatin accessibility and provide evidence of a link between Ubx/Hth binding and chromatin state at genes regulated by Polycomb silencing. Overall, we define a set of direct Ubx targets in the haltere imaginal disc and suggest that chromatin accessibility has important implications for Hox target selection and for transcription factor binding in general.
Project description:The Hox genes are responsible for generating morphological diversity along the anterior-posterior axis during animal development. The Drosophila Hox gene Ultrabithorax (Ubx), for example, is required for specifying the identity of the third thoracic (T3) segment of the adult, which includes the dorsal haltere, an appendage required for flight, and the ventral T3 leg. Ubx mutants show homeotic transformations of the T3 leg towards the identity of the T2 leg and the haltere towards the wing. All Hox genes, including Ubx, encode homeodomain containing transcription factors, raising the question of what target genes Ubx regulates to generate these adult structures. To address this question, we carried out whole genome ChIP-chip studies to identify all of the Ubx bound regions in the haltere and T3 leg imaginal discs, which are the precursors to these adult structures. In addition, we used ChIP-chip to identify the sites bound by the Hox cofactor, Homothorax (Hth). In contrast to previous ChIP-chip studies carried out in Drosophila embryos, these binding studies reveal that there is a remarkable amount of tissue- and transcription factor-specific binding. Analyses of the putative target genes bound and regulated by these factors suggest that Ubx regulates many downstream transcription factors and developmental pathways in the haltere and T3 leg. Finally, we discovered additional DNA sequence motifs that in some cases are specific for individual data sets, arguing that Ubx and/or Hth work together with many regionally expressed transcription factors to execute their functions. Together, these data provide the first whole-genome analysis of the binding sites and target genes regulated by Ubx to specify the morphologies of the adult T3 segment of the fly.
Project description:Mutations in the <i>Ultrabithorax</i> (<i>Ubx</i>) gene cause homeotic transformation of the normally two-winged <i>Drosophila</i> into a four-winged mutant fly. <i>Ubx</i> encodes a HOX family transcription factor that specifies segment identity, including transformation of the second set of wings into rudimentary halteres. <i>Ubx</i> is known to control the expression of many genes that regulate tissue growth and patterning, but how it regulates tissue morphogenesis to reshape the wing into a haltere is still unclear. Here, we show that <i>Ubx</i> acts by repressing the expression of two genes in the haltere, <i>Stubble</i> and <i>Notopleural</i>, both of which encode transmembrane proteases that remodel the apical extracellular matrix to promote wing morphogenesis. In addition, <i>Ubx</i> induces expression of the <i>Tissue inhibitor of metalloproteases</i> in the haltere, which prevents the basal extracellular matrix remodelling necessary for wing morphogenesis. Our results provide a long-awaited explanation for how Ubx controls morphogenetic transformation.
Project description:In the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster, the differential development of wing and haltere is dependent on the function of the Hox protein Ultrabithorax (Ubx). Here we compare Ubx-mediated regulation of wing patterning genes between the honeybee, Apis mellifera, the silkmoth, Bombyx mori and Drosophila. Orthologues of Ubx are expressed in the third thoracic segment of Apis and Bombyx, although they make functional hindwings. When over-expressed in transgenic Drosophila, Ubx derived from Apis or Bombyx could suppress wing development, suggesting evolutionary changes at the level of co-factors and/or targets of Ubx. To gain further insights into such events, we identified direct targets of Ubx from Apis and Bombyx by ChIP-seq and compared them with those of Drosophila. While majority of the putative targets of Ubx are species-specific, a considerable number of wing-patterning genes are retained, over the past 300?millions years, as targets in all the three species. Interestingly, many of these are differentially expressed only between wing and haltere in Drosophila but not between forewing and hindwing in Apis or Bombyx. Detailed bioinformatics and experimental validation of enhancer sequences suggest that, perhaps along with other factors, changes in the cis-regulatory sequences of earlier targets contribute to diversity in Ubx function.
Project description:During development diverse transcription factor inputs are integrated by cis-regulatory modules (CRMs) to yield cell-specific gene expression. Defining how CRMs recruit the appropriate combinations of factors to either activate or repress gene expression remains a challenge. In this study, we compare and contrast the ability of two CRMs within the Drosophila embryo to recruit functional Hox transcription factor complexes. The DCRE CRM recruits Ultrabithorax (Ubx) and Abdominal-A (Abd-A) Hox complexes that include the Extradenticle (Exd) and Homothorax (Hth) transcription factors to repress the Distal-less leg selector gene, whereas the RhoA CRM selectively recruits Abd-A/Exd/Hth complexes to activate rhomboid and stimulate Epidermal Growth Factor secretion in sensory cell precursors. By swapping binding sites between these elements, we found that the RhoA Exd/Hth/Hox site configuration that mediates Abd-A specific activation can convey transcriptional repression by both Ubx and Abd-A when placed into the DCRE. We further show that the orientation and spacing of Hox sites relative to additional binding sites within the RhoA and DCRE is critical to mediate cell- and segment-specific output. These results indicate that the configuration of Exd, Hth, and Hox site within RhoA is neither Abd-A specific nor activation specific. Instead Hox specific output is largely dependent upon the presence of appropriately spaced and oriented binding sites for additional TF inputs. Taken together, these studies provide insight into the cis-regulatory logic used to generate cell-specific outputs via recruiting Hox transcription factor complexes.
Project description:Disruptions of normal Hox gene expression can lead to severe morphological defects, revealing a link between the regulation of Hox expression and pattern formation. Here, we explore these links, focusing on the impact of microRNA regulation on the expression of the Drosophila Hox gene Ultrabithorax (Ubx) during haltere development. Through a combination of bioinformatic and transcriptomic analyses, we identify the miR-310/313 cluster (miR-310C) as a candidate regulator of Ubx Several experiments confirm this. First, miR-310C and Ubx protein show complementary expression patterns in haltere imaginal discs; second, artificial activation of miR-310C expression in haltere discs leads to Ubx-like phenotypes. Third, expression of a fluorescent reporter bearing Ubx 3'UTR sequences is reduced when co-expressed with miR-310C Fourth, deletion of miR-310C leads to Ubx upregulation and changes the array of mechanosensory sensilla at the base of the haltere. Fifth, an artificial increase of Ubx levels within the miR-310C expression domain phenocopies the mechanosensory defects observed in miR-310C mutants. We propose that miR-310C-mediated repression delimits Ubx fine-grain expression, contributing to the sculpting of complex morphologies in the Drosophila haltere with implications for flight control. Our work reveals a novel role of microRNA regulation in the control of Hox gene expression with impact on morphology.
Project description:Hox proteins have been proposed to act at multiple levels within regulatory hierarchies and to directly control the expression of a plethora of target genes. However, for any specific Hox protein or tissue, very few direct in vivo-regulated target genes have been identified. Here, we have identified target genes of the Hox protein Ultrabithorax (UBX), which modifies the genetic regulatory network of the wing to generate the haltere, a modified hindwing. We used whole-genome microarrays and custom arrays including all predicted transcription factors and signaling molecules in the Drosophila melanogaster genome to identify differentially expressed genes in wing and haltere imaginal discs. To elucidate the regulation of selected genes in more detail, we isolated cis-regulatory elements (CREs) for genes that were specifically expressed in either the wing disc or haltere disc. We demonstrate that UBX binds directly to sites in one element, and these sites are critical for activation in the haltere disc. These results indicate that haltere and metathoracic segment morphology is not achieved merely by turning off the wing and mesothoracic development programs, but rather specific genes must also be activated to form these structures. The evolution of haltere morphology involved changes in UBX-regulated target genes, both positive and negative, throughout the wing genetic regulatory network.
Project description:Alterations in Hox gene expression patterns have been implicated in both large and small-scale morphological evolution. An improved understanding of these changes requires a detailed understanding of Hox gene cis-regulatory function and evolution. cis-regulatory evolution of the Hox gene Ultrabithorax (Ubx) has been shown to contribute to evolution of trichome patterns on the posterior second femur (T2p) of Drosophila species. As a step toward determining how this function of Ubx has evolved, we performed a series of experiments to clarify the role of Ubx in patterning femurs and to identify the cis-regulatory regions of Ubx that drive expression in T2p. We first performed clonal analysis to further define Ubx function in patterning bristle and trichome patterns in the legs. We found that low levels of Ubx expression are sufficient to repress an eighth bristle row on the posterior second and third femurs, whereas higher levels of expression are required to promote the development and migration of other bristles on the third femur and to repress trichomes. We then tested the hypothesis that the evolutionary difference in T2p trichome patterns due to Ubx was caused by a change in the global cis-regulation of Ubx expression. We found no evidence to support this view, suggesting that the evolved difference in Ubx function reflects evolution of a leg-specific enhancer. We then searched for the regulatory regions of the Ubx locus that drive expression in the second and third femur by assaying all existing regulatory mutations of the Ubx locus and new deficiencies in the large intron of Ubx that we generated by P-element-induced male recombination. We found that two enhancer regions previously known to regulate Ubx expression in the legs, abx and pbx, are required for Ubx expression in the third femur, but that they do not contribute to pupal expression of Ubx in the second femur. This analysis allowed us to rule out at least 100 kb of DNA in and around the Ubx locus as containing a T2p-specific enhancer. We then surveyed an additional approximately 30 kb using enhancer constructs. None of these enhancer constructs produced an expression pattern similar to Ubx expression in T2p. Thus, after surveying over 95% of the Ubx locus, we have not been able to localize a T2p-specific enhancer. While the enhancer could reside within the small regions we have not surveyed, it is also possible that the enhancer is structurally complex and/or acts only within its native genomic context.