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Drosophila as a Model for MECP2 Gain of Function in Neurons  [PDF]
Fernando Vonhoff, Alison Williams, Stefanie Ryglewski, Carsten Duch
PLOS ONE , 2012, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0031835
Abstract: Methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (MECP2) is a multi-functional regulator of gene expression. In humans loss of MECP2 function causes classic Rett syndrome, but gain of MECP2 function also causes mental retardation. Although mouse models provide valuable insight into Mecp2 gain and loss of function, the identification of MECP2 genetic targets and interactors remains time intensive and complicated. This study takes a step toward utilizing Drosophila as a model to identify genetic targets and cellular consequences of MECP2 gain-of function mutations in neurons, the principle cell type affected in patients with Rett-related mental retardation. We show that heterologous expression of human MECP2 in Drosophila motoneurons causes distinct defects in dendritic structure and motor behavior, as reported with MECP2 gain of function in humans and mice. Multiple lines of evidence suggest that these defects arise from specific MECP2 function. First, neurons with MECP2-induced dendrite loss show normal membrane currents. Second, dendritic phenotypes require an intact methyl-CpG-binding domain. Third, dendritic defects are amended by reducing the dose of the chromatin remodeling protein, osa, indicating that MECP2 may act via chromatin remodeling in Drosophila. MECP2-induced motoneuron dendritic defects cause specific motor behavior defects that are easy to score in genetic screening. In sum, our data show that some aspects of MECP2 function can be studied in the Drosophila model, thus expanding the repertoire of genetic reagents that can be used to unravel specific neural functions of MECP2. However, additional genes and signaling pathways identified through such approaches in Drosophila will require careful validation in the mouse model.
Genetic and Chemical Modifiers of a CUG Toxicity Model in Drosophila  [PDF]
Amparo Garcia-Lopez, Lidon Monferrer, Irma Garcia-Alcover, Marta Vicente-Crespo, M. Carmen Alvarez-Abril, Ruben D. Artero
PLOS ONE , 2008, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0001595
Abstract: Non-coding CUG repeat expansions interfere with the activity of human Muscleblind-like (MBNL) proteins contributing to myotonic dystrophy 1 (DM1). To understand this toxic RNA gain-of-function mechanism we developed a Drosophila model expressing 60 pure and 480 interrupted CUG repeats in the context of a non-translatable RNA. These flies reproduced aspects of the DM1 pathology, most notably nuclear accumulation of CUG transcripts, muscle degeneration, splicing misregulation, and diminished Muscleblind function in vivo. Reduced Muscleblind activity was evident from the sensitivity of CUG-induced phenotypes to a decrease in muscleblind genetic dosage and rescue by MBNL1 expression, and further supported by the co-localization of Muscleblind and CUG repeat RNA in ribonuclear foci. Targeted expression of CUG repeats to the developing eye and brain mushroom bodies was toxic leading to rough eyes and semilethality, respectively. These phenotypes were utilized to identify genetic and chemical modifiers of the CUG-induced toxicity. 15 genetic modifiers of the rough eye phenotype were isolated. These genes identify putative cellular processes unknown to be altered by CUG repeat RNA, and they include mRNA export factor Aly, apoptosis inhibitor Thread, chromatin remodelling factor Nurf-38, and extracellular matrix structural component Viking. Ten chemical compounds suppressed the semilethal phenotype. These compounds significantly improved viability of CUG expressing flies and included non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents (ketoprofen), muscarinic, cholinergic and histamine receptor inhibitors (orphenadrine), and drugs that can affect sodium and calcium metabolism such as clenbuterol and spironolactone. These findings provide new insights into the DM1 phenotype, and suggest novel candidates for DM1 treatments.
Genome-Wide Screen for Modifiers of Ataxin-3 Neurodegeneration in Drosophila  [PDF]
Julide Bilen,Nancy M Bonini
PLOS Genetics , 2007, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.0030177
Abstract: Spinocerebellar ataxia type-3 (SCA3) is among the most common dominantly inherited ataxias, and is one of nine devastating human neurodegenerative diseases caused by the expansion of a CAG repeat encoding glutamine within the gene. The polyglutamine domain confers toxicity on the protein Ataxin-3 leading to neuronal dysfunction and loss. Although modifiers of polyglutamine toxicity have been identified, little is known concerning how the modifiers function mechanistically to affect toxicity. To reveal insight into spinocerebellar ataxia type-3, we performed a genetic screen in Drosophila with pathogenic Ataxin-3-induced neurodegeneration and identified 25 modifiers defining 18 genes. Despite a variety of predicted molecular activities, biological analysis indicated that the modifiers affected protein misfolding. Detailed mechanistic studies revealed that some modifiers affected protein accumulation in a manner dependent on the proteasome, whereas others affected autophagy. Select modifiers of Ataxin-3 also affected tau, revealing common pathways between degeneration due to distinct human neurotoxic proteins. These findings provide new insight into molecular pathways of polyQ toxicity, defining novel targets for promoting neuronal survival in human neurodegenerative disease.
Identification of Genetic Modifiers of TDP-43 Neurotoxicity in Drosophila  [PDF]
Lihong Zhan, Keith A. Hanson, Sang Hwa Kim, Apeksha Tare, Randal S. Tibbetts
PLOS ONE , 2013, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0057214
Abstract: Cytosolic aggregation of the nuclear RNA-binding protein TDP-43 is a histopathologic signature of degenerating neurons in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and mutations in the TARDBP gene encoding TDP-43 cause dominantly inherited forms of this condition. To understand the relationship between TDP-43 misregulation and neurotoxicity, we and others have used Drosophila as a model system, in which overexpression of either wild-type TDP-43 or its ALS-associated mutants in neurons is sufficient to induce neurotoxicity, paralysis, and early death. Using microarrays, we have examined gene expression patterns that accompany TDP-43-induced neurotoxicity in the fly system. Constitutive expression of TDP-43 in the Drosophila compound eye elicited widespread gene expression changes, with strong upregulation of cell cycle regulatory genes and genes functioning in the Notch intercellular communication pathway. Inducible expression of TDP-43 specifically in neurons elicited significant expression differences in a more restricted set of genes. Genes that were upregulated in both paradigms included SpindleB and the Notch target Hey, which appeared to be a direct TDP-43 target. Mutations that diminished activity of Notch or disrupted the function of downstream Notch target genes extended the lifespan of TDP-43 transgenic flies, suggesting that Notch activation was deleterious in this model. Finally, we showed that mutation of the nucleoporin Nup50 increased the lifespan of TDP-43 transgenic flies, suggesting that nuclear events contribute to TDP-43-dependent neurotoxicity. The combined findings identified pathways whose deregulation might contribute to TDP-43-induced neurotoxicity in Drosophila.
Huntingtin Interacting Proteins Are Genetic Modifiers of Neurodegeneration  [PDF]
Linda S Kaltenbach equal contributor,Eliana Romero equal contributor,Robert R Becklin,Rakesh Chettier,Russell Bell,Amit Phansalkar,Andrew Strand,Cameron Torcassi,Justin Savage,Anthony Hurlburt,Guang-Ho Cha,Lubna Ukani,Cindy Lou Chepanoske,Yuejun Zhen,Sudhir Sahasrabudhe,James Olson,Cornelia Kurschner,Lisa M Ellerby,John M Peltier,Juan Botas ,Robert E Hughes
PLOS Genetics , 2007, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.0030082
Abstract: Huntington's disease (HD) is a fatal neurodegenerative condition caused by expansion of the polyglutamine tract in the huntingtin (Htt) protein. Neuronal toxicity in HD is thought to be, at least in part, a consequence of protein interactions involving mutant Htt. We therefore hypothesized that genetic modifiers of HD neurodegeneration should be enriched among Htt protein interactors. To test this idea, we identified a comprehensive set of Htt interactors using two complementary approaches: high-throughput yeast two-hybrid screening and affinity pull down followed by mass spectrometry. This effort led to the identification of 234 high-confidence Htt-associated proteins, 104 of which were found with the yeast method and 130 with the pull downs. We then tested an arbitrary set of 60 genes encoding interacting proteins for their ability to behave as genetic modifiers of neurodegeneration in a Drosophila model of HD. This high-content validation assay showed that 27 of 60 orthologs tested were high-confidence genetic modifiers, as modification was observed with more than one allele. The 45% hit rate for genetic modifiers seen among the interactors is an order of magnitude higher than the 1%–4% typically observed in unbiased genetic screens. Genetic modifiers were similarly represented among proteins discovered using yeast two-hybrid and pull-down/mass spectrometry methods, supporting the notion that these complementary technologies are equally useful in identifying biologically relevant proteins. Interacting proteins confirmed as modifiers of the neurodegeneration phenotype represent a diverse array of biological functions, including synaptic transmission, cytoskeletal organization, signal transduction, and transcription. Among the modifiers were 17 loss-of-function suppressors of neurodegeneration, which can be considered potential targets for therapeutic intervention. Finally, we show that seven interacting proteins from among 11 tested were able to co-immunoprecipitate with full-length Htt from mouse brain. These studies demonstrate that high-throughput screening for protein interactions combined with genetic validation in a model organism is a powerful approach for identifying novel candidate modifiers of polyglutamine toxicity.
Conserved Genes Act as Modifiers of Invertebrate SMN Loss of Function Defects  [PDF]
Maria Dimitriadi equal contributor,James N. Sleigh equal contributor,Amy Walker equal contributor,Howard C. Chang,Anindya Sen,Geetika Kalloo,Jevede Harris,Tom Barsby,Melissa B. Walsh,John S. Satterlee,Chris Li,David Van Vactor,Spyros Artavanis-Tsakonas,Anne C. Hart
PLOS Genetics , 2010, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1001172
Abstract: Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) is caused by diminished function of the Survival of Motor Neuron (SMN) protein, but the molecular pathways critical for SMA pathology remain elusive. We have used genetic approaches in invertebrate models to identify conserved SMN loss of function modifier genes. Drosophila melanogaster and Caenorhabditis elegans each have a single gene encoding a protein orthologous to human SMN; diminished function of these invertebrate genes causes lethality and neuromuscular defects. To find genes that modulate SMN function defects across species, two approaches were used. First, a genome-wide RNAi screen for C. elegans SMN modifier genes was undertaken, yielding four genes. Second, we tested the conservation of modifier gene function across species; genes identified in one invertebrate model were tested for function in the other invertebrate model. Drosophila orthologs of two genes, which were identified originally in C. elegans, modified Drosophila SMN loss of function defects. C. elegans orthologs of twelve genes, which were originally identified in a previous Drosophila screen, modified C. elegans SMN loss of function defects. Bioinformatic analysis of the conserved, cross-species, modifier genes suggests that conserved cellular pathways, specifically endocytosis and mRNA regulation, act as critical genetic modifiers of SMN loss of function defects across species.
Screen for Genetic Modifiers of stbm Reveals that Photoreceptor Fate and Rotation Can Be Genetically Uncoupled in the Drosophila Eye  [PDF]
Tanya Wolff, Jake B. Guinto, Amy S. Rawls
PLOS ONE , 2007, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0000453
Abstract: Background Polarity of the Drosophila compound eye arises primarily as a consequence of two events that are tightly linked in time and space: fate specification of two photoreceptor cells, R3 and R4, and the subsequent directional movement of the unit eyes of the compound eye, or ommatidia. While it is thought that these fates dictate the direction of ommatidial rotation, the phenotype of mutants in the genes that set up this polarity led to the hypothesis that these two events could be uncoupled. Methodology/Principal Findings To definitively demonstrate these events are genetically separable, we conducted a dominant modifier screen to determine if genes, when misexpressed, could selectively enhance subclasses of mutant ommatidia in which the direction of rotation does not follow the R3/R4 cell fates, yet not affect the number of ommatidia in which rotation follows the R3/R4 cell fates. We identified a subset of P element lines that exhibit this selective enhancement. We also identified lines that behave in the opposite manner: They enhance the number of ommatidia that rotate in the right direction, but do not alter the number of ommatidia that rotate incorrectly with respect to the R3/R4 fates. Conclusions/Significance These results indicate that fate and direction of rotation can be genetically separated, and that there are genes that act between R3/R4 fate specification and direction of ommatidial rotation. These data affirm what has been a long-standing assumption about the genetic control of ommatidial polarity.
Disruption of Sarcoendoplasmic Reticulum Calcium ATPase Function in Drosophila Leads to Cardiac Dysfunction  [PDF]
Dennis M. Abraham, Matthew J. Wolf
PLOS ONE , 2013, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0077785
Abstract: Abnormal sarcoendoplasmic reticulum Calcium ATPase (SERCA) function has been associated with poor cardiac function in humans. While modifiers of SERCA function have been identified and studied using animal models, further investigation has been limited by the absence of a model system that is amenable to large-scale genetic screens. Drosophila melanogaster is an ideal model system for the investigation of SERCA function due to the significant homology to human SERCA and the availability of versatile genetic screening tools. To further the use of Drosophila as a model for examining the role of SERCA in cardiac function, we examined cardiac function in adult flies. Using optical coherence tomography (OCT) imaging in awake, adult Drosophila, we have been able to characterize cardiac chamber dimensions in flies with disrupted in Drosophila SERCA (CaP60A). We found that the best studied CaP60A mutant, the conditional paralytic mutant CaP60Akum170, develops marked bradycardia and chamber enlargement that is closely linked to the onset of paralysis and dependent on extra cardiac CaP60A. In contrast to prior work, we show that disruption of CaP60A in a cardiac specific manner results in cardiac dilation and dysfunction rather than alteration in heart rate. In addition, the co-expression of a calcium release channel mutation with CaP60A kum170 is sufficient to rescue the cardiac phenotype but not paralysis. Finally, we show that CaP60A overexpression is able to rescue cardiac function in a model of Drosophila cardiac dysfunction similar to what is observed in mammals. Thus, we present a cardiac phenotype associated with Drosophila SERCA dysfunction that would serve as additional phenotyping for further large-scale genetic screens for novel modifiers of SERCA function.
Genome-wide screen for modifiers of Parkinson's disease genes in Drosophila
Caroline Fernandes, Yong Rao
Molecular Brain , 2011, DOI: 10.1186/1756-6606-4-17
Abstract: To systematically identify novel components of the PD pathways, we generated a genetic background that allowed us to perform a genome-wide F1 screen for modifiers of Drosophila parkin (park) and Pink1 mutant phenotype. From screening ~80% of the fly genome, we identified a number of cytological regions that interact with park and/or Pink1. Among them, four cytological regions were selected for identifying corresponding PD-interacting genes. By analyzing smaller deficiency chromosomes, available transgenic RNAi lines, and P-element insertions, we identified five PD-interacting genes. Among them, opa1 and drp1 have been previously implicated in the PD pathways, whereas debra (dbr), Pi3K21B and β4GalNAcTA are novel PD-interacting genes.We took an unbiased genetic approach to systematically isolate modifiers of PD genes in Drosophila. Further study of novel PD-interacting genes will shed new light on the function of PD genes and help in the development of new therapeutic strategies for treating Parkinson's disease.Parkinson's disease (PD) is the second most common neurodegenerative disease. It is characterized by the loss of nigral dopaminergic neurons. Mutations in Pink1 and Parkin cause autosomal recessive early-onset Parkinson's disease in humans [1,2]. Together mutations in these genes account for greater than 50% of familial Parkinson disease (PD) and ~20% of early-onset sporadic cases [3-5]. Recent studies on characterizing the function of Parkin and Pink1 have significantly advanced our understanding of PD pathogenesis.Parkin has E3-ubiquitin ligase activity, and is shown to degrade abnormally folded proteins [6]. For instance, Parkin ubiquitinates and degrades proteins such as CDCrel-1 [7], Parkin-associated endothelin receptor-like (Pael) receptor [8], α-synuclein [9], synphilin-1 [10], and cyclin E [11]. Thus, Parkin dysfunction in regulating the level of other proteins or itself through protein degradation may contribute to PD pathogenesis.Pink1 is a mitochon
A genetic screen for modifiers of Drosophila caspase Dcp-1 reveals caspase involvement in autophagy and novel caspase-related genes
Young-Il Kim, Taewoo Ryu, Judong Lee, Young-Shin Heo, Joohong Ahnn, Seung-Jae Lee, OokJoon Yoo
BMC Cell Biology , 2010, DOI: 10.1186/1471-2121-11-9
Abstract: We screened ~15,000 EP lines and identified 72 Dcp-1-interacting genes that were classified into 10 groups based on their functions and pathways: 4 apoptosis signaling genes, 10 autophagy genes, 5 insulin/IGF and TOR signaling pathway genes, 6 MAP kinase and JNK signaling pathway genes, 4 ecdysone signaling genes, 6 ubiquitination genes, 11 various developmental signaling genes, 12 transcription factors, 3 translation factors, and 11 other unclassified genes including 5 functionally undefined genes. Among them, insulin/IGF and TOR signaling pathway, MAP kinase and JNK signaling pathway, and ecdysone signaling are known to be involved in autophagy. Together with the identification of autophagy genes, the results of our screen suggest that autophagy counteracts Dcp-1-induced apoptosis. Consistent with this idea, we show that expression of eGFP-Atg5 rescued the eye phenotype caused by Dcp-1 GF. Paradoxically, we found that over-expression of full-length Dcp-1 induced autophagy, as Atg8b-GFP, an indicator of autophagy, was increased in the eye imaginal discs and in the S2 cell line. Taken together, these data suggest that autophagy suppresses Dcp-1-mediated apoptotic cell death, whereas Dcp-1 positively regulates autophagy, possibly through feedback regulation.We identified a number of Dcp-1 modifiers that genetically interact with Dcp-1-induced cell death. Our results showing that Dcp-1 and autophagy-related genes influence each other will aid future investigations of the complicated relationships between apoptosis and autophagy.Apoptosis, or programmed cell death, is an evolutionarily conserved, genetically regulated process, whereby cells that are no longer needed undergo self-destruction through the activation of a cell suicide program [1,2]. This cell death program is associated with characteristic morphological alterations, such as condensation of the nucleus and cytoplasm, fragmentation of nuclear DNA, reorganization of the cytoskeleton, and reduction of the cell
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