Project description:Otd-related transcription factors are evolutionarily conserved to control anterior patterning and neurogenesis. In humans, two such factors, OTX2 and CRX, are expressed in all photoreceptors from early specification through adulthood and associate with several photoreceptor-specific retinopathies. It is not well understood how these factors function independently vs. redundantly, or how specific mutations lead to different disease outcomes. It is also unclear how OTX1 and OTX2 functionally overlap during other aspects of neurogenesis and ocular development. Drosophila encodes a single Otd factor that has multiple functions during eye development. Using the Drosophila eye as a model, we tested the ability of the human OTX1, OTX2, and CRX genes, as well as several disease-associated CRX alleles, to rescue the different functions of Otd.Our results indicate the following: OTX2 and CRX display overlapping, yet distinct subfunctions of Otd during photoreceptor differentiation; CRX disease alleles can be functionally distinguished based on their rescue properties; and all three factors are able to rescue rhabdomeric photoreceptor morphogenesis.Our findings have important implications for understanding how Otx proteins have subfunctionalized during evolution, and cement Drosophila as an effective tool to unravel the molecular bases of photoreceptor pathogenesis.
Project description:Homeobox transcription factors of the vertebrate CRX/OTX family play critical roles in photoreceptor neurons, the rostral brain and circadian processes. In mouse, the three related proteins, CRX, OTX1, and OTX2, fulfill these functions. In Drosophila, the single founding member of this gene family, called orthodenticle (otd), is required during embryonic brain and photoreceptor neuron development. We have used global gene expression analysis in late pupal heads to better characterize the post-embryonic functions of Otd in Drosophila. We have identified 61 genes that are differentially expressed between wild type and a viable eye-specific otd mutant allele. Among them, about one-third represent potentially direct targets of Otd based on their association with evolutionarily conserved Otd-binding sequences. The spectrum of biological functions associated with these gene targets establishes Otd as a critical regulator of photoreceptor morphology and phototransduction, as well as suggests its involvement in circadian processes. Together with the well-documented role of otd in embryonic patterning, this evidence shows that vertebrate and fly genes contribute to analogous biological processes, notwithstanding the significant divergence of the underlying genetic pathways. Our findings underscore the common evolutionary history of photoperception-based functions in vertebrates and invertebrates and support the view that a complex nervous system was already present in the last common ancestor of all bilateria.
Project description:A number of genes preferentially expressed in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) are associated with retinal degenerative disease. One of these, BEST1, encodes bestrophin-1, a protein that when mutated causes Best macular dystrophy. As a model for RPE gene regulation, we have been studying the mechanisms that control BEST1 expression, and recently demonstrated that members of the MITF-TFE family modulate BEST1 transcription. The human BEST1 upstream region from -154 to +38 bp is sufficient to direct expression in the RPE, and positive-regulatory elements exist between -154 and -104 bp. Here, we show that the -154 to -104 bp region is necessary for RPE expression in transgenic mice and contains a predicted OTX-binding site (Site 1). Since another non-canonical OTX site (Site 2) is located nearby, we tested the function of these sites using BEST1 promoter/luciferase constructs by in vivo electroporation and found that mutation of both sites reduces promoter activity. Three OTX family proteins - OTX1, OTX2 and CRX - bound to both Sites 1 and 2 in vitro, and all of them increased BEST1 promoter activity. Surprisingly, we found that human and bovine RPE expressed not only OTX2 but also CRX, the CRX genomic region in bovine RPE was hypersensitive to DNase I, consistent with active transcription, and that both OTX2 and CRX bound to the BEST1 proximal promoter in vivo. These results demonstrate for the first time CRX expression in the RPE, and suggest that OTX2 and CRX may act as positive modulators of the BEST1 promoter in the RPE.
Project description:The elbow/no ocelli (elb/noc) complex of Drosophila melanogaster encodes two paralogs of the evolutionarily conserved NET family of zinc finger proteins. These transcriptional repressors share a conserved domain structure, including a single atypical C2H2 zinc finger. In flies, Elb and Noc are important for the development of legs, eyes and tracheae. Vertebrate NET proteins play an important role in the developing nervous system, and mutations in the homolog ZNF703 human promote luminal breast cancer. However, their interaction with transcriptional regulators is incompletely understood. Here we show that loss of both Elb and Noc causes mis-specification of polarization-sensitive photoreceptors in the 'dorsal rim area' (DRA) of the fly retina. This phenotype is identical to the loss of the homeodomain transcription factor Homothorax (Hth)/dMeis. Development of DRA ommatidia and expression of Hth are induced by the Wingless/Wnt pathway. Our data suggest that Elb/Noc genetically interact with Hth, and we identify two conserved domains crucial for this function. Furthermore, we show that Elb/Noc specifically interact with the transcription factor Orthodenticle (Otd)/Otx, a crucial regulator of rhodopsin gene transcription. Interestingly, different Elb/Noc domains are required to antagonize Otd functions in transcriptional activation, versus transcriptional repression. We propose that similar interactions between vertebrate NET proteins and Meis and Otx factors might play a role in development and disease.
Project description:Specific cellular fates and functions depend on differential gene expression, which occurs primarily at the transcriptional level and is controlled by complex regulatory networks of transcription factors (TFs). TFs act through combinatorial interactions with other TFs, cofactors, and chromatin-remodeling proteins. Here, we define protein-protein interactions using a coaffinity purification/mass spectrometry method and study 459 Drosophila melanogaster transcription-related factors, representing approximately half of the established catalog of TFs. We probe this network in vivo, demonstrating functional interactions for many interacting proteins, and test the predictive value of our data set. Building on these analyses, we combine regulatory network inference models with physical interactions to define an integrated network that connects combinatorial TF protein interactions to the transcriptional regulatory network of the cell. We use this integrated network as a tool to connect the functional network of genetic modifiers related to mastermind, a transcriptional cofactor of the Notch pathway.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Homeobox genes of the orthodenticle (otd)/Otx family have conserved roles in the embryogenesis of head and brain. Gene replacement experiments show that the Drosophila otd gene and orthologous mammalian Otx genes are functionally equivalent, in that overexpression of either gene in null mutants of Drosophila or mouse can restore defects in cephalic and brain development. This suggests that otd and Otx genes control a comparable subset of downstream target genes in either organism. Here we use quantitative transcript imaging to analyze this equivalence of otd and Otx gene action at a genomic level. RESULTS:Oligonucleotide arrays representing 13,400 annotated Drosophila genes were used to study differential gene expression in flies in which either the Drosophila otd gene or the human Otx2 gene was overexpressed. Two hundred and eighty-seven identified transcripts showed highly significant changes in expression levels in response to otd overexpression, and 682 identified transcripts showed highly significant changes in expression levels in response to Otx2 overexpression. Among these, 93 showed differential expression changes following overexpression of either otd or Otx2, and for 90 of these, comparable changes were observed under both experimental conditions. We postulate that these transcripts are common downstream targets of the fly otd gene and the human Otx2 gene in Drosophila. CONCLUSION:Our experiments indicate that approximately one third of the otd-regulated transcripts also respond to overexpression of the human Otx2 gene in Drosophila. These common otd/Otx2 downstream genes are likely to represent the molecular basis of the functional equivalence of otd and Otx2 gene action in Drosophila.
Project description:The tumor suppressor gene p53 in mammalian cells plays a critical role in safeguarding the integrity of genome. It functions as a sequence-specific transcription factor. Upon activation by a variety of cellular stresses, p53 transactivates downstream target genes, through which it regulates cell cycle and apoptosis. However, little is known about p53 in invertebrates. Here we report the identification and characterization of a Drosophila p53 homologue gene, dp53. dp53 encodes a 385-amino acid protein with significant homology to human p53 (hp53) in the region of the DNA-binding domain, and to a lesser extent the tetramerization domain. Purified dp53 DNA-binding domain protein was shown to bind to the consensus hp53-binding site by gel mobility analysis. In transient transfection assays, expression of dp53 in Schneider cells transcriptionally activated promoters that contained consensus hp53-responsive elements. Moreover, a mutant dp53 (Arg-155 to His-155), like its hp53 counterpart mutant, exerted a dominant-negative effect on transactivation. Ectopic expression of dp53 in Drosophila eye disk caused cell death and led to a rough eye phenotype. dp53 is expressed throughout the development of Drosophila with highest expression levels in early embryogenesis, which has a maternal component. Consistent with this, dp53 RNA levels were high in the nurse cells of the ovary. It appears that p53 is structurally and functionally conserved from flies to mammals. Drosophila will provide a useful genetic system to the further study of the p53 network.
Project description:Our understanding of the networks of genes and protein functions involved in Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) remains incomplete, as do the mechanisms by which these networks lead to AUD phenotypes. The fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) is an efficient model for functional and mechanistic characterization of the genes involved in alcohol behavior. The fly offers many advantages as a model organism for investigating the molecular and cellular mechanisms of alcohol-related behaviors, and for understanding the underlying neural circuitry driving behaviors, such as locomotor stimulation, sedation, tolerance, and appetitive (reward) learning and memory. Fly researchers are able to use an extensive variety of tools for functional characterization of gene products. To understand how the fly can guide our understanding of AUD in the era of Big Data we will explore these tools, and review some of the gene networks identified in the fly through their use, including chromatin-remodeling, glial, cellular stress, and innate immunity genes. These networks hold great potential as translational drug targets, making it prudent to conduct further research into how these gene mechanisms are involved in alcohol behavior.
Project description:Highly precise, yet flexible and responsive coordination of expression across groups of genes underpins the integrity of many vital functions. However, our understanding of gene regulatory networks (GRNs) is often hampered by the lack of experimentally tractable systems, by significant computational challenges derived from the large number of genes involved or from difficulties in the accurate identification and characterization of gene interactions. Here we used a tractable experimental system in which to study GRNs: the genes encoding the seminal fluid proteins that are transferred along with sperm (the 'transferome') in Drosophila melanogaster fruit flies. The products of transferome genes are core determinants of reproductive success and, to date, only transcription factors have been implicated in the modulation of their expression. Hence, as yet, we know nothing about the post-transcriptional mechanisms underlying the tight, responsive and precise regulation of this important gene set. We investigated this omission in the current study. We first used bioinformatics to identify potential regulatory motifs that linked the transferome genes in a putative interaction network. This predicted the presence of putative microRNA (miRNA) 'hubs'. We then tested this prediction, that post-transcriptional regulation is important for the control of transferome genes, by knocking down miRNA expression in adult males. This abolished the ability of males to respond adaptively to the threat of sexual competition, indicating a regulatory role for miRNAs in the regulation of transferome function. Further bioinformatics analysis then identified candidate miRNAs as putative regulatory hubs and evidence for variation in the strength of miRNA regulation across the transferome gene set. The results revealed regulatory mechanisms that can underpin robust, precise and flexible regulation of multiple fitness-related genes. They also help to explain how males can adaptively modulate ejaculate composition.
Project description:Homeothermal animals, such as mammals, maintain their body temperature by heat generation and heat dissipation, while poikilothermal animals, such as insects, accomplish it by relocating to an environment of their favored temperature. Catecholamines are known to regulate thermogenesis and metabolic rate in mammals, but their roles in other animals are poorly understood. The fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, has been used as a model system for the genetic studies of temperature preference behavior. Here, we demonstrate that metabolic rate and temperature sensitivity of some temperature sensitive behaviors are regulated by dopamine in Drosophila. Temperature-sensitive molecules like dTrpA1 and shi(ts) induce temperature-dependent behavioral changes, and the temperature at which the changes are induced were lowered in the dopamine transporter-defective mutant, fumin. The mutant also displays a preference for lower temperatures. This thermophobic phenotype was rescued by the genetic recovery of the dopamine transporter in dopamine neurons. Flies fed with a dopamine biosynthesis inhibitor (3-iodo-L-tyrosine), which diminishes dopamine signaling, exhibited preference for a higher temperature. Furthermore, we found that the metabolic rate is up-regulated in the fumin mutant. Taken together, dopamine has functions in the temperature sensitivity of behavioral changes and metabolic rate regulation in Drosophila, as well as its previously reported functions in arousal/sleep regulation.