Control of tissue morphogenesis by the HOX gene Ultrabithorax.
ABSTRACT: Mutations in the Ultrabithorax (Ubx) gene cause homeotic transformation of the normally two-winged Drosophila into a four-winged mutant fly. Ubx encodes a HOX family transcription factor that specifies segment identity, including transformation of the second set of wings into rudimentary halteres. Ubx 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 Ubx acts by repressing the expression of two genes in the haltere, Stubble and Notopleural, both of which encode transmembrane proteases that remodel the apical extracellular matrix to promote wing morphogenesis. In addition, Ubx induces expression of the Tissue inhibitor of metalloproteases 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:Hox genes encode highly conserved transcription factors that regionalize the animal body axis by controlling complex developmental processes. Although they are known to operate in multiple cell types and at different stages, we are still missing the batteries of genes targeted by any one Hox gene over the course of a single developmental process to achieve a particular cell and organ morphology. The transformation of wings into halteres by the Hox gene Ultrabithorax (Ubx) in Drosophila melanogaster presents an excellent model system to study the Hox control of transcriptional networks during successive stages of appendage morphogenesis and cell differentiation. We have used an inducible misexpression system to switch on Ubx in the wing epithelium at successive stages during metamorphosis--in the larva, prepupa, and pupa. We have then used extensive microarray expression profiling and quantitative RT-PCR to identify the primary transcriptional responses to Ubx. We find that Ubx targets range from regulatory genes like transcription factors and signaling components to terminal differentiation genes affecting a broad repertoire of cell behaviors and metabolic reactions. Ubx up- and down-regulates hundreds of downstream genes at each stage, mostly in a subtle manner. Strikingly, our analysis reveals that Ubx target genes are largely distinct at different stages of appendage morphogenesis, suggesting extensive interactions between Hox genes and hormone-controlled regulatory networks to orchestrate complex genetic programs during metamorphosis.
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: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: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: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:Flies execute their remarkable aerial maneuvers using a set of wing steering muscles, which are activated at specific phases of the stroke cycle [1-3]. The activation phase of these muscles-which determines their biomechanical output [4-6]-arises via feedback from mechanoreceptors at the base of the wings and structures unique to flies called halteres [7-9]. Evolved from the hindwings, the tiny halteres oscillate at the same frequency as the wings, although they serve no aerodynamic function  and are thought to act as gyroscopes [10-15]. Like the wings, halteres possess minute control muscles whose activity is modified by descending visual input , raising the possibility that flies control wing motion by adjusting the motor output of their halteres, although this hypothesis has never been directly tested. Here, using genetic techniques possible in Drosophila melanogaster, we tested the hypothesis that visual input during flight modulates haltere muscle activity and that this, in turn, alters the mechanosensory feedback that regulates the wing steering muscles. Our results suggest that rather than acting solely as a gyroscope to detect body rotation, halteres also function as an adjustable clock to set the spike timing of wing motor neurons, a specialized capability that evolved from the generic flight circuitry of their four-winged ancestors. In addition to demonstrating how the efferent control loop of a sensory structure regulates wing motion, our results provide insight into the selective scenario that gave rise to the evolution of halteres.
Project description:During animal development, selector genes determine identities of body segments and those of individual organs. Selector genes are also misexpressed in cancers, although their contributions to tumor progression per se remain poorly understood. Using a model of cooperative tumorigenesis, we show that gain of selector genes results in tumor cooperation, but in only select developmental domains of the wing, haltere and eye-antennal imaginal discs of Drosophila larva. Thus, the field selector, Eyeless (Ey), and the segment selector, Ultrabithorax (Ubx), readily cooperate to bring about neoplastic transformation of cells displaying somatic loss of the tumor suppressor, Lgl, but in only those developmental domains that express the homeo-box protein, Homothorax (Hth), and/or the Zinc-finger protein, Teashirt (Tsh). In non-Hth/Tsh-expressing domains of these imaginal discs, however, gain of Ey in lgl- somatic clones induces neoplastic transformation in the distal wing disc and haltere, but not in the eye imaginal disc. Likewise, gain of Ubx in lgl- somatic clones induces transformation in the eye imaginal disc but not in its endogenous domain, namely, the haltere imaginal disc. Our results reveal that selector genes could behave as tumor drivers or inhibitors depending on the tissue contexts of their gains.
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:The mechanics of Dipteran thorax is dictated by a network of exoskeletal linkages that, when deformed by the flight muscles, generate coordinated wing movements. In Diptera, the forewings power flight, whereas the hindwings have evolved into specialized structures called halteres, which provide rapid mechanosensory feedback for flight stabilization. Although actuated by independent muscles, wing and haltere motion is precisely phase-coordinated at high frequencies. Because wingbeat frequency is a product of wing-thorax resonance, any wear-and-tear of wings or thorax should impair flight ability. How robust is the Dipteran flight system against such perturbations? Here, we show that wings and halteres are independently driven, coupled oscillators. We systematically reduced the wing length in flies and observed how wing-haltere synchronization was affected. The wing-wing system is a strongly coupled oscillator, whereas the wing-haltere system is weakly coupled through mechanical linkages that synchronize phase and frequency. Wing-haltere link acts in a unidirectional manner; altering wingbeat frequency affects haltere frequency, but not vice versa. Exoskeletal linkages are thus key morphological features of the Dipteran thorax that ensure wing-haltere synchrony, despite severe wing damage.
Project description:Selector genes modify developmental pathways to sculpt animal body parts. Although body parts differ in size, the ways in which selector genes create size differences are unknown. We have studied how the Drosophila Hox gene Ultrabithorax (Ubx) limits the size of the haltere, which, by the end of larval development, has approximately fivefold fewer cells than the wing. We find that Ubx controls haltere size by restricting both the transcription and the mobility of the morphogen Decapentaplegic (Dpp). Ubx restricts Dpp's distribution in the haltere by increasing the amounts of the Dpp receptor, thickveins. Because morphogens control tissue growth in many contexts, these findings provide a potentially general mechanism for how selector genes modify organ sizes.