Novel regulation of the homeotic gene Scr associated with a crustacean leg-to-maxilliped appendage transformation.
Homeotic genes are known to be involved in patterning morphological structures along the antero-posterior axis of insects and vertebrates. Because of their important roles in development, changes in the function and expression patterns of homeotic genes may have played a major role in the evolution of different body plans. For example, it has been proposed that during the evolution of several crustacean lineages, changes in the expression patterns of the homeotic genes Ultrabithorax and abdominal-A have played a role in transformation of the anterior thoracic appendages into mouthparts termed maxillipeds. This homeotic-like transformation is recapitulated at the late stages of the direct embryonic development of the crustacean Porcellio scaber (Oniscidea, Isopoda). Interestingly, this morphological change is associated with apparent novelties both in the transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation of the Porcellio scaber ortholog of the Drosophila homeotic gene, Sex combs reduced (Scr). Specifically, we find that Scr mRNA is present in the second maxillary segment and the first pair of thoracic legs (T1) in early embryos, whereas protein accumulates only in the second maxillae. In later stages, however, high levels of SCR appear in the T1 legs, which correlates temporally with the transformation of these appendages into maxillipeds. Our observations provide further insight into the process of the homeotic leg-to-maxilliped transformation in the evolution of crustaceans and suggest a novel regulatory mechanism for this process in this group of arthropods. (+info)
Apontic binds the translational repressor Bruno and is implicated in regulation of oskar mRNA translation.
The product of the oskar gene directs posterior patterning in the Drosophila oocyte, where it must be deployed specifically at the posterior pole. Proper expression relies on the coordinated localization and translational control of the oskar mRNA. Translational repression prior to localization of the transcript is mediated, in part, by the Bruno protein, which binds to discrete sites in the 3' untranslated region of the oskar mRNA. To begin to understand how Bruno acts in translational repression, we performed a yeast two-hybrid screen to identify Bruno-interacting proteins. One interactor, described here, is the product of the apontic gene. Coimmunoprecipitation experiments lend biochemical support to the idea that Bruno and Apontic proteins physically interact in Drosophila. Genetic experiments using mutants defective in apontic and bruno reveal a functional interaction between these genes. Given this interaction, Apontic is likely to act together with Bruno in translational repression of oskar mRNA. Interestingly, Apontic, like Bruno, is an RNA-binding protein and specifically binds certain regions of the oskar mRNA 3' untranslated region. (+info)
The Drosophila kismet gene is related to chromatin-remodeling factors and is required for both segmentation and segment identity.
The Drosophila kismet gene was identified in a screen for dominant suppressors of Polycomb, a repressor of homeotic genes. Here we show that kismet mutations suppress the Polycomb mutant phenotype by blocking the ectopic transcription of homeotic genes. Loss of zygotic kismet function causes homeotic transformations similar to those associated with loss-of-function mutations in the homeotic genes Sex combs reduced and Abdominal-B. kismet is also required for proper larval body segmentation. Loss of maternal kismet function causes segmentation defects similar to those caused by mutations in the pair-rule gene even-skipped. The kismet gene encodes several large nuclear proteins that are ubiquitously expressed along the anterior-posterior axis. The Kismet proteins contain a domain conserved in the trithorax group protein Brahma and related chromatin-remodeling factors, providing further evidence that alterations in chromatin structure are required to maintain the spatially restricted patterns of homeotic gene transcription. (+info)
Transcriptional repression by the Drosophila giant protein: cis element positioning provides an alternative means of interpreting an effector gradient.
Early developmental patterning of the Drosophila embryo is driven by the activities of a diverse set of maternally and zygotically derived transcription factors, including repressors encoded by gap genes such as Kruppel, knirps, giant and the mesoderm-specific snail. The mechanism of repression by gap transcription factors is not well understood at a molecular level. Initial characterization of these transcription factors suggests that they act as short-range repressors, interfering with the activity of enhancer or promoter elements 50 to 100 bp away. To better understand the molecular mechanism of short-range repression, we have investigated the properties of the Giant gap protein. We tested the ability of endogenous Giant to repress when bound close to the transcriptional initiation site and found that Giant effectively represses a heterologous promoter when binding sites are located at -55 bp with respect to the start of transcription. Consistent with its role as a short-range repressor, as the binding sites are moved to more distal locations, repression is diminished. Rather than exhibiting a sharp 'step-function' drop-off in activity, however, repression is progressively restricted to areas of highest Giant concentration. Less than a two-fold difference in Giant protein concentration is sufficient to determine a change in transcriptional status of a target gene. This effect demonstrates that Giant protein gradients can be differentially interpreted by target promoters, depending on the exact location of the Giant binding sites within the gene. Thus, in addition to binding site affinity and number, cis element positioning within a promoter can affect the response of a gene to a repressor gradient. We also demonstrate that a chimeric Gal4-Giant protein lacking the basic/zipper domain can specifically repress reporter genes, suggesting that the Giant effector domain is an autonomous repression domain. (+info)
A Drosophila doublesex-related gene, terra, is involved in somitogenesis in vertebrates.
The Drosophila doublesex (dsx) gene encodes a transcription factor that mediates sex determination. We describe the characterization of a novel zebrafish zinc-finger gene, terra, which contains a DNA binding domain similar to that of the Drosophila dsx gene. However, unlike dsx, terra is transiently expressed in the presomitic mesoderm and newly formed somites. Expression of terra in presomitic mesoderm is restricted to cells that lack expression of MyoD. In vivo, terra expression is reduced by hedgehog but enhanced by BMP signals. Overexpression of terra induces rapid apoptosis both in vitro and in vivo, suggesting that a tight regulation of terra expression is required during embryogenesis. Terra has both human and mouse homologs and is specifically expressed in mouse somites. Taken together, our findings suggest that terra is a highly conserved protein that plays specific roles in early somitogenesis of vertebrates. (+info)
Membrane-tethered Drosophila Armadillo cannot transduce Wingless signal on its own.
Drosophila Armadillo and its vertebrate homolog beta-catenin are key effectors of Wingless/Wnt signaling. In the current model, Wingless/Wnt signal stabilizes Armadillo/beta-catenin, which then accumulates in nuclei and binds TCF/LEF family proteins, forming bipartite transcription factors which activate transcription of Wingless/Wnt responsive genes. This model was recently challenged. Overexpression in Xenopus of membrane-tethered beta-catenin or its paralog plakoglobin activates Wnt signaling, suggesting that nuclear localization of Armadillo/beta-catenin is not essential for signaling. Tethered plakoglobin or beta-catenin might signal on their own or might act indirectly by elevating levels of endogenous beta-catenin. We tested these hypotheses in Drosophila by removing endogenous Armadillo. We generated a series of mutant Armadillo proteins with altered intracellular localizations, and expressed these in wild-type and armadillo mutant backgrounds. We found that membrane-tethered Armadillo cannot signal on its own; however it can function in adherens junctions. We also created mutant forms of Armadillo carrying heterologous nuclear localization or nuclear export signals. Although these signals alter the subcellular localization of Arm when overexpressed in Xenopus, in Drosophila they have little effect on localization and only subtle effects on signaling. This supports a model in which Armadillo's nuclear localization is key for signaling, but in which Armadillo intracellular localization is controlled by the availability and affinity of its binding partners. (+info)
Sonic hedgehog signaling by the patched-smoothened receptor complex.
BACKGROUND: The Hedgehog (Hh) family of secreted proteins is involved in a number of developmental processes as well as in cancer. Genetic and biochemical data suggest that the Sonic hedgehog (Shh) receptor is composed of at least two proteins: the tumor suppressor protein Patched (Ptc) and the seven-transmembrane protein Smoothened (Smo). RESULTS: Using a biochemical assay for activation of the transcription factor Gli, a downstream component of the Hh pathway, we show here that Smo functions as the signaling component of the Shh receptor, and that this activity can be blocked by Ptc. The inhibition of Smo by Ptc can be relieved by the addition of Shh. Furthermore, oncogenic forms of Smo are insensitive to Ptc repression in this assay. Mapping of the Smo domains required for binding to Ptc and for signaling revealed that the Smo-Ptc interaction involves mainly the amino terminus of Smo, and that the third intracellular loop and the seventh transmembrane domain are required for signaling. CONCLUSIONS: These data demonstrate that Smo is the signaling component of a multicomponent Hh receptor complex and that Ptc is a ligand-regulated inhibitor of Smo. Different domains of Smo are involved in Ptc binding and activation of a Gli reporter construct. The latter requires the third intracellular loop and the seventh transmembrane domain of Smo, regions often involved in coupling to G proteins. No changes in the levels of cyclic AMP or calcium associated with such pathways could be detected following receptor activation, however. (+info)
Ultrabithorax function in butterfly wings and the evolution of insect wing patterns.
BACKGROUND: . The morphological and functional evolution of appendages has played a critical role in animal evolution, but the developmental genetic mechanisms underlying appendage diversity are not understood. Given that homologous appendage development is controlled by the same Hox gene in different organisms, and that Hox genes are transcription factors, diversity may evolve from changes in the regulation of Hox target genes. Two impediments to understanding the role of Hox genes in morphological evolution have been the limited number of organisms in which Hox gene function can be studied and the paucity of known Hox-regulated target genes. We have therefore analyzed a butterfly homeotic mutant 'Hindsight', in which portions of the ventral hindwing pattern are transformed to ventral forewing identity, and we have compared the regulation of target genes by the Ultrabithorax (Ubx) gene product in Lepidopteran and Dipteran hindwings. RESULTS: . We show that Ubx gene expression is lost from patches of cells in developing Hindsight hindwings, correlating with changes in wing pigmentation, color pattern elements, and scale morphology. We use this mutant to study how regulation of target genes by Ubx protein differs between species. We find that several Ubx-regulated genes in the Drosophila haltere are not repressed by Ubx in butterfly hindwings, but that Distal-less (Dll) expression is regulated by Ubx in a unique manner in butterflies. CONCLUSIONS: . The morphological diversification of insect hindwings has involved the acquisition of different sets of target genes by Ubx in different lineages. Changes in Hox-regulated target gene sets are, in general, likely to underlie the morphological divergence of homologous structures between animals. (+info)