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Src42A-dependent polarized cell shape changes mediate epithelial tube elongation in Drosophila

By: Förster D, Luschnig S

Nature Cell Biology | Volume: 14 | Issue: 5 | 526-34 |

Although many organ functions rely on epithelial tubes with correct dimensions, mechanisms underlying tube size control are poorly understood. We analyse the cellular mechanism of tracheal tube elongation in Drosophila, and describe an essential role of the conserved tyrosine kinase Src42A in this process. We show that Src42A is required for polarized cell shape changes and cell rearrangements that mediate tube elongation. In contrast, diametric expansion is controlled by apical secretion independently of Src42A. Constitutive activation of Src42A induces axial cell stretching and tracheal overelongation, indicating that Src42A acts instructively in this process. We propose that Src42A-dependent recycling of E-Cadherin at adherens junctions is limiting for cell shape changes and rearrangements in the axial dimension of the tube. Thus, we define distinct cellular processes that independently control axial and diametric expansion of a cylindrical epithelium in a developing organ. Whereas exocytosis-dependent membrane growth drives circumferential tube expansion, Src42A is required to orient membrane growth in the axial dimension of the tube.

The Drosophila Sec7 domain Guanine Nucleotide Exchange Factor protein Gartenzwerg localizes at the cis-Golgi and is essential for epithelial tube expansion

By: Armbruster K, Luschnig S

Journal of Cell Science | Volume: 125 | Issue: 5 | 1318–28 |

Protein trafficking through the secretory pathway plays a key role in epithelial organ development and function. The expansion of tracheal tubes in Drosophila depends on trafficking of coatomer protein complex I (COPI)-coated vesicles between the Golgi complex and the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). However, it is not clear how this pathway is regulated. Here we describe an essential function of the Sec7 domain guanine nucleotide exchange factor (GEF) gartenzwerg (garz) in epithelial tube morphogenesis and protein secretion. garz is essential for the recruitment of COPI components and for normal Golgi organization. A GFP-Garz fusion protein is distributed in the cytoplasm and accumulates at the cis-Golgi. Localization to the Golgi requires the C-terminal part of Garz. Conversely, blocking the GDP-GTP nucleotide exchange reaction leads to constitutive Golgi localization, suggesting that Garz cycles in a GEF-activity-dependent manner between cytoplasmic and Golgi-membrane-localized pools. The related human ARF-GEF protein GBF1 can substitute for garz function in Drosophila tracheal cells, indicating that the relevant functions of these proteins are conserved. We show that garz interacts genetically with the ARF1 homolog ARF79F and with the ARF1-GAP homolog Gap69C, thus placing garz in a regulatory circuit that controls COPI trafficking in Drosophila. Interestingly, overexpression of garz causes accumulation of secreted proteins in the ER, suggesting that excessive garz activity leads to increased retrograde trafficking. Thus, garz might regulate epithelial tube morphogenesis and secretion by controlling the rate of trafficking of COPI vesicles.


Control of germline torso expression by the BTB/POZ domain protein Pipsqueak is required for embryonic terminal patterning in Drosophila

By: Grillo M, Furriols M, Casanova J, Luschnig S

Genetics | Volume: 187 | Issue: 2 | 513-21 |

Early embryogenesis in Drosophila melanogaster is controlled by maternal gene products, which are deposited in the egg during oogenesis. It is not well understood how maternal gene expression is controlled during germline development. pipsqueak (psq) is a complex locus that encodes several nuclear protein variants containing a PSQ DNA-binding domain and a BTB/POZ domain. Psq proteins are thought to regulate germline gene expression through epigenetic silencing. While psq was originally identified as a posterior-group gene, we show here a novel role of psq in embryonic terminal patterning. We characterized a new psq loss-of-function allele, psq(rum), which specifically affects signaling by the Torso (Tor) receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK). Using genetic epistasis, gene expression analyses, and rescue experiments, we demonstrate that the sole function impaired by the psq(rum) mutation in the terminal system is an essential requirement for controlling transcription of the tor gene in the germline. In contrast, the expression of several other maternal genes, including those encoding Tor pathway components, is not affected by the mutation. Rescue of the psq(rum) terminal phenotype does not require the BTB/POZ domain, suggesting that the PSQ DNA-binding domain can function independently of the BTB/POZ domain. Our finding that tor expression is subject to dedicated transcriptional regulation suggests that different maternal genes may be regulated by multiple distinct mechanisms, rather than by a general program controlling nurse-cell transcription.


Localization and Activation of the Drosophila Protease Easter Requires 
the Saposin-Like ER Protein Seele

By: Stein D, Charatsi I, Zhang Z, Cho YS, Nguyen J, Delotto R, Luschnig S

Current Biology | Volume: 20 | Issue: 21 | 1953-58 |

Drosophila embryonic dorsal-ventral polarity is generated by a series of serine protease processing events in the egg perivitelline space. Gastrulation Defective processes Snake, which then cleaves Easter, which then processes Spätzle into the activating ligand for the Toll receptor. seele was identified in a screen for mutations that, when homozygous in ovarian germline clones, lead to the formation of progeny embryos with altered embryonic patterning; maternal loss of seele function leads to the production of moderately dorsalized embryos. By combining constitutively active versions of Gastrulation Defective, Snake, Easter, and Spätzle with loss-of-function alleles of seele, we find that Seele activity is dispensable for Spätzle-mediated activation of Toll but is required for Easter, Snake, and Gastrulation Defective to exert their effects on dorsal-ventral patterning. Moreover, Seele function is required specifically for secretion of Easter from the developing embryo into the perivitelline space and for Easter processing. Seele protein resides in the endoplasmic reticulum of blastoderm embryos, suggesting a role in the trafficking of Easter to the perivitelline space, prerequisite to its processing and function. Easter transport to the perivitelline space represents a previously unappreciated control point in the signal transduction pathway that controls Drosophila embryonic dorsal-ventral polarity.

Sec24-dependent secretion drives cell-autonomous expansion of tracheal tubes in Drosophila

By: Förster D, Armbruster K, Luschnig S

Current Biology | Volume: 20 | Issue: 1 | 62-68 |

Epithelial tubes in developing organs, such as mammalian lungs and insect tracheae, need to expand their initially narrow lumina to attain their final, functional dimensions. Despite its critical role for organ function, the cellular mechanism of tube expansion remains unclear. Tracheal tube expansion in Drosophila involves apical secretion and deposition of a luminal matrix, but the mechanistic role of secretion and the nature of forces involved in the process were not previously clear. Here we address the roles of cell-intrinsic and extrinsic processes in tracheal tube expansion. We identify mutations in the sec24 gene stenosis, encoding a cargo-binding subunit of the COPII complex. Via genetic-mosaic analyses, we show that stenosis-dependent secretion drives tube expansion in a cell-autonomous fashion. Strikingly, single cells autonomously adjust both tube diameter and length by implementing a sequence of events including apical membrane growth, cell flattening, and taenidial cuticle formation. Known luminal components are not required for this process. Thus, a cell-intrinsic program, rather than nonautonomous extrinsic cues, controls the dimensions of tracheal tubes. These results indicate a critical role of membrane-associated proteins in the process and imply a mechanism that coordinates autonomous behaviors of individual cells within epithelial structures.


Kinase-activity-independent functions of atypical protein kinase C in Drosophila

By: Kim S, Gailite I, Moussian B, Luschnig S, Goette M, Fricke K, Honemann-Capito M, Grubmüller H, Wodarz A

Journal of Cell Science | Volume: 122 | Issue: 20 | 3759-71 |

Polarity of many cell types is controlled by a protein complex consisting of Bazooka/PAR-3 (Baz), PAR-6 and atypical protein kinase C (aPKC). In Drosophila, the Baz-PAR-6-aPKC complex is required for the control of cell polarity in the follicular epithelium, in ectodermal epithelia and neuroblasts. aPKC is the main signaling component of this complex that functions by phosphorylating downstream targets, while the PDZ domain proteins Baz and PAR-6 control the subcellular localization and kinase activity of aPKC. We compared the mutant phenotypes of an aPKC null allele with those of four novel aPKC alleles harboring point mutations that abolish the kinase activity or the binding of aPKC to PAR-6. We show that these point alleles retain full functionality in the control of follicle cell polarity, but produce strong loss-of-function phenotypes in embryonic epithelia and neuroblasts. Our data, combined with molecular dynamics simulations, show that the kinase activity of aPKC and its ability to bind PAR-6 are only required for a subset of its functions during development, revealing tissue-specific differences in the way that aPKC controls cell polarity.


gammaCOP is required for apical protein secretion and epithelial morphogenesis in Drosophila melanogaster

By: Grieder NC, Caussinus E, Parker DS, Cadigan K, Affolter M, Luschnig S

PLoS ONE | Volume: 3 | Issue: 9 | e3241 |


There is increasing evidence that tissue-specific modifications of basic cellular functions play an important role in development and disease. To identify the functions of COPI coatomer-mediated membrane trafficking in Drosophila development, we were aiming to create loss-of-function mutations in the gammaCOP gene, which encodes a subunit of the COPI coatomer complex.


We found that gammaCOP is essential for the viability of the Drosophila embryo. In the absence of zygotic gammaCOP activity, embryos die late in embryogenesis and display pronounced defects in morphogenesis of the embryonic epidermis and of tracheal tubes. The coordinated cell rearrangements and cell shape changes during tracheal tube morphogenesis critically depend on apical secretion of certain proteins. Investigation of tracheal morphogenesis in gammaCOP loss-of-function mutants revealed that several key proteins required for tracheal morphogenesis are not properly secreted into the apical lumen. As a consequence, gammaCOP mutants show defects in cell rearrangements during branch elongation, in tube dilation, as well as in tube fusion. We present genetic evidence that a specific subset of the tracheal defects in gammaCOP mutants is due to the reduced secretion of the Zona Pellucida protein Piopio. Thus, we identified a critical target protein of COPI-dependent secretion in epithelial tube morphogenesis.


These studies highlight the role of COPI coatomer-mediated vesicle trafficking in both general and tissue-specific secretion in a multicellular organism. Although COPI coatomer is generally required for protein secretion, we show that the phenotypic effect of gammaCOP mutations is surprisingly specific. Importantly, we attribute a distinct aspect of the gammaCOP phenotype to the effect on a specific key target protein.

Wollknäuel is required for embryo patterning and encodes the Drosophila ALG5 UDP-glucose:dolichyl-phosphate glucosyltransferase

By: Haecker A, Bergman M, Neupert C, Moussian B, Luschnig S, Aebi M, Mannervik M

Development | Volume: 135 | 1745-49 |

N-linked glycosylation is a prevalent protein modification in eukaryotic cells. Although glycosylation plays an important role in cell signaling during development, a role for N-linked glycosylation in embryonic patterning has not previously been described. In a screen for maternal factors involved in embryo patterning, we isolated mutations in Drosophila ALG5, a UDP-glucose:dolichyl-phosphate glucosyltransferase. Based on the embryonic cuticle phenotype, we designated the ALG5 locus wollknäuel (wol). Mutations in wol result in posterior segmentation phenotypes, reduced Dpp signaling, as well as impaired mesoderm invagination and germband elongation at gastrulation. The segmentation phenotype can be attributed to a post-transcriptional effect on expression of the transcription factor Caudal, whereas wol acts upstream of Dpp signalin by regulating dpp expression. The wol/ALG5 cDNA was able to partially complement the hypoglycosylation phenotype of alg5 mutant S. cerevisiae, whereas the two wol mutant alleles failed to complement. We show that reduced glycosylation in wol mutant embryos triggers endoplasmic reticulum stress and the unfolded protein response (UPR). As a result, phosphorylation of the translation factor eIF2alpha is increased. We propose a model in which translation of a few maternal mRNAs, including caudal, are particularly sensitive to increased eIF2alpha phosphorylation. According to this view, inappropriate UPR activation can cause specific patterning defects during embryo development.

Pumilio Binds para mRNA and Requires Nanos and Brat to Regulate Sodium Current in Drosophila Motoneurons

By: Muraro NI, Weston AJ, Gerber AP, Luschnig S, Moffat KG, Baines RA

Journal of Neuroscience | Volume: 28 | Issue: 9 | 2099-109 |

Homeostatic regulation of ionic currents is of paramount importance during periods of synaptic growth or remodeling. Our previous work has identified the translational repressor Pumilio (Pum) as a regulator of sodium current (I(Na)) and excitability in Drosophila motoneurons. In this current study, we show that Pum is able to bind directly the mRNA encoding the Drosophila voltage-gated sodium channel paralytic (para). We identify a putative binding site for Pum in the 3' end of the para open reading frame (ORF). Characterization of the mechanism of action of Pum, using whole-cell patch clamp and real-time reverse transcription-PCR, reveals that the full-length protein is required for translational repression of para mRNA. Additionally, the cofactor Nanos is essential for Pum-dependent para repression, whereas the requirement for Brain Tumor (Brat) is cell type specific. Thus, Pum-dependent regulation of I(Na) in motoneurons requires both Nanos and Brat, whereas regulation in other neuronal types seemingly requires only Nanos but not Brat. We also show that Pum is able to reduce the level of nanos mRNA and as such identify a potential negative-feedback mechanism to protect neurons from overactivity of Pum. Finally, we show coupling between I(Na) (para) and I(K) (Shal) such that Pum-mediated change in para results in a compensatory change in Shal. The identification of para as a direct target of Pum represents the first ion channel to be translationally regulated by this repressor and the location of the binding motif is the first example in an ORF rather than in the canonical 3'-untranslated region of target transcripts.


Drosophila brakeless interacts with atrophin and is required for tailless-mediated transcriptional repression in early embryos

By: Haecker A, Qi D, Lilja T, Moussian B, Andrioli LP, Luschnig S, Mannervik M

PLoS Biology | Volume: 5 | Issue: 6 | e145 |

Complex gene expression patterns in animal development are generated by the interplay of transcriptional activators and repressors at cis-regulatory DNA modules (CRMs). How repressors work is not well understood, but often involves interactions with co-repressors. We isolated mutations in the brakeless gene in a screen for maternal factors affecting segmentation of the Drosophila embryo. Brakeless, also known as Scribbler, or Master of thickveins, is a nuclear protein of unknown function. In brakeless embryos, we noted an expanded expression pattern of the Krüppel (Kr) and knirps (kni) genes. We found that Tailless-mediated repression of kni expression is impaired in brakeless mutants. Tailless and Brakeless bind each other in vitro and interact genetically. Brakeless is recruited to the Kr and kni CRMs, and represses transcription when tethered to DNA. This suggests that Brakeless is a novel co-repressor. Orphan nuclear receptors of the Tailless type also interact with Atrophin co-repressors. We show that both Drosophila and human Brakeless and Atrophin interact in vitro, and propose that they act together as a co-repressor complex in many developmental contexts. We discuss the possibility that human Brakeless homologs may influence the toxicity of polyglutamine-expanded Atrophin-1, which causes the human neurodegenerative disease dentatorubral-pallidoluysian atrophy (DRPLA).