Dendritic arbor morphology influences how neurons receive and integrate extracellular signals. We show that the ELAV/Hu family RNA-binding protein Found in neurons (Fne) is required for space-filling dendrite growth to generate highly branched arbors of Drosophila larval class IV dendritic arborization neurons. Dendrites of fne mutant neurons are shorter and more dynamic than in wild-type, leading to decreased arbor coverage. These defects result from both a decrease in stable microtubules and loss of dendrite-substrate interactions within the arbor. Identification of transcripts encoding cytoskeletal regulators and cell-cell and cell-ECM interacting proteins as Fne targets using TRIBE further supports these results. Analysis of one target, encoding the cell adhesion protein Basigin, indicates that the cytoskeletal defects contributing to branch instability in fne mutant neurons are due in part to decreased Basigin expression. The ability of Fne to coordinately regulate the cytoskeleton and dendrite-substrate interactions in neurons may shed light on the behavior of cancer cells ectopically expressing ELAV/Hu proteins.
mRNAs enriched in membraneless condensates provide functional compartmentalization within cells. The mechanisms that recruit transcripts to condensates are under intense study; however, how mRNAs organize once they reach a granule remains poorly understood. Here, we report on a self-sorting mechanism by which multiple mRNAs derived from the same gene assemble into discrete homotypic clusters. We demonstrate that in vivo mRNA localization to granules and self-assembly within granules are governed by different mRNA features: localization is encoded by specific RNA regions, whereas self-assembly involves the entire mRNA, does not involve sequence-specific, ordered intermolecular RNA:RNA interactions, and is thus RNA sequence independent. We propose that the ability of mRNAs to self-sort into homotypic assemblies is an inherent property of an messenger ribonucleoprotein (mRNP) that is augmented under conditions that increase RNA concentration, such as upon enrichment in RNA-protein granules, a process that appears conserved in diverse cellular contexts and organisms.
Partitioning of mRNAs into ribonucleoprotein (RNP) granules supports diverse regulatory programs within the crowded cytoplasm. At least two types of RNP granules populate the germ plasm, a cytoplasmic domain at the posterior of the oocyte and embryo. Germ granules deliver mRNAs required for germline development to pole cells, the germ cell progenitors. A second type of RNP granule, here named founder granules, contains mRNA, which encodes the germ plasm organizer. Whereas mRNA is essential for germ plasm assembly during oogenesis, we show that it is toxic to pole cells. Founder granules mediate compartmentalized degradation of during embryogenesis to minimize its inheritance by pole cells. Degradation of in founder granules is temporally and mechanistically distinct from degradation of and other mRNAs during the maternal-to-zygotic transition. Our results show how compartmentalization in RNP granules differentially controls fates of mRNAs localized within the same cytoplasmic domain.
Specification and development of germ cells depend on molecular determinants within the germ plasm, a specialized cytoplasmic domain at the posterior of the embryo. Localization of numerous mRNAs to the germ plasm occurs by their incorporation, as single-transcript ribonucleoprotein (RNP) particles, into complex RNP granules called polar granules. Incorporation of mRNAs into polar granules is followed by recruitment of additional like transcripts to form discrete homotypic clusters. The -acting localization signals that target mRNAs to polar granules and promote homotypic clustering remain largely uncharacterized. Here, we show that the () and () 3' untranslated regions contain complex localization signals comprising multiple, independently weak and partially functionally redundant localization elements (LEs). We demonstrate that targeting of to polar granules and self-assembly into homotypic clusters are functionally separable processes mediated by distinct classes of LEs. We identify a sequence motif shared by other polar granule mRNAs that contributes to homotypic clustering. Our results suggest that mRNA localization signal complexity may be a feature required by the targeting and self-recruitment mechanism that drives germ plasm mRNA localization.
The formation of ribonucleoprotein assemblies called germ granules is a conserved feature of germline development. In Drosophila, germ granules form at the posterior of the oocyte in a specialized cytoplasm called the germ plasm, which specifies germline fate during embryogenesis. mRNAs, including nanos (nos) and polar granule component (pgc), that function in germline development are localized to the germ plasm through their incorporation into germ granules, which deliver them to the primordial germ cells. Germ granules are nucleated by Oskar (Osk) protein and contain varying combinations and quantities of their constituent mRNAs, which are organized as spatially distinct, multi-copy homotypic clusters. The process that gives rise to such heterogeneous yet organized granules remains unknown. Here, we show that individual nos and pgc transcripts can populate the same nascent granule, and these first transcripts then act as seeds, recruiting additional like transcripts to form homotypic clusters. Within a granule, homotypic clusters grow independently of each other but depend on the simultaneous acquisition of additional Osk. Although granules can contain multiple clusters of a particular mRNA, granule mRNA content is dominated by cluster size. These results suggest that the accumulation of mRNAs in the germ plasm is controlled by the mRNAs themselves through their ability to form homotypic clusters; thus, RNA self-association drives germ granule mRNA localization. We propose that a stochastic seeding and self-recruitment mechanism enables granules to simultaneously incorporate many different mRNAs while ensuring that each becomes enriched to a functional threshold.
Spatial arrangement of different neuron types within a territory is essential to neuronal development and function. How development of different neuron types is coordinated for spatial coexistence is poorly understood. In Drosophila, dendrites of four classes of dendritic arborization (C1-C4da) neurons innervate overlapping receptive fields within the larval epidermis. These dendrites are intermittently enclosed by epidermal cells, with different classes exhibiting varying degrees of enclosure. The role of enclosure in neuronal development and its underlying mechanism remain unknown. We show that the membrane-associated protein Coracle acts in C4da neurons and epidermal cells to locally restrict dendrite branching and outgrowth by promoting enclosure. Loss of C4da neuron enclosure results in excessive branching and growth of C4da neuron dendrites and retraction of C1da neuron dendrites due to local inhibitory interactions between neurons. We propose that enclosure of dendrites by epidermal cells is a developmental mechanism for coordinated innervation of shared receptive fields.
The Drosophila hnRNP F/H homolog, Glorund (Glo), regulates nanos mRNA translation by interacting with a structured UA-rich motif in the nanos 3' untranslated region. Glo regulates additional RNAs, however, and mammalian homologs bind G-tract sequences to regulate alternative splicing, suggesting that Glo also recognizes G-tract RNA. To gain insight into how Glo recognizes both structured UA-rich and G-tract RNAs, we used mutational analysis guided by crystal structures of Glo's RNA-binding domains and identified two discrete RNA-binding surfaces that allow Glo to recognize both RNA motifs. By engineering Glo variants that favor a single RNA-binding mode, we show that a subset of Glo's functions in vivo is mediated solely by the G-tract binding mode, whereas regulation of nanos requires both recognition modes. Our findings suggest a molecular mechanism for the evolution of dual RNA motif recognition in Glo that may be applied to understanding the functional diversity of other RNA-binding proteins.
The primordial germ cells (PGCs) specified during embryogenesis serve as progenitors to the adult germline stem cells. In Drosophila, the proper specification and formation of PGCs require both centrosomes and germ plasm, which contains the germline determinants. Centrosomes are microtubule (MT)-organizing centers that ensure the faithful segregation of germ plasm into PGCs. To date, mechanisms that modulate centrosome behavior to engineer PGC development have remained elusive. Only one germ plasm component, Germ cell-less (Gcl), is known to play a role in PGC formation. Here, we show that Gcl engineers PGC formation by regulating centrosome dynamics. Loss of gcl leads to aberrant centrosome separation and elaboration of the astral MT network, resulting in inefficient germ plasm segregation and aborted PGC cellularization. Importantly, compromising centrosome separation alone is sufficient to mimic the gcl loss-of-function phenotypes. We conclude Gcl functions as a key regulator of centrosome separation required for proper PGC development.
bicoid mRNA localises to the Drosophila oocyte anterior from stage 9 of oogenesis onwards to provide a local source for Bicoid protein for embryonic patterning. Live imaging at stage 9 reveals that bicoid mRNA particles undergo rapid Dynein-dependent movements near the oocyte anterior, but with no directional bias. Furthermore, bicoid mRNA localises normally in shot(2A2), which abolishes the polarised microtubule organisation. FRAP and photo-conversion experiments demonstrate that the RNA is stably anchored at the anterior, independently of microtubules. Thus, bicoid mRNA is localised by random active transport and anterior anchoring. Super-resolution imaging reveals that bicoid mRNA forms 110-120 nm particles with variable RNA content, but constant size. These particles appear to be well-defined structures that package the RNA for transport and anchoring.
The ability to visualize RNA in situ is essential to dissect mechanisms for the temporal and spatial regulation of gene expression that drives development. Although considerable attention has been focused on transcriptional control, studies in model organisms like Drosophila have highlighted the importance of post-transcriptional mechanisms - most notably intracellular mRNA localization - in the formation and patterning of the body axes, specification of cell fates, and polarized cell functions. Our understanding of both types of regulation has been greatly advanced by technological innovations that enable a combination of highly quantitative and dynamic analysis of RNA. This review presents two methods, single molecule fluorescence in situ hybridization for high resolution quantitative RNA detection in fixed Drosophila oocytes and embryos and genetically encoded fluorescent RNA labeling for detection in live cells.
Localizing messenger RNAs at specific subcellular sites is a conserved mechanism for targeting the synthesis of cytoplasmic proteins to distinct subcellular domains, thereby generating the asymmetric protein distributions necessary for cellular and developmental polarity. However, the full range of transcripts that are asymmetrically distributed in specialized cell types, and the significance of their localization, especially in the nervous system, are not known. We used the EP-MS2 method, which combines EP transposon insertion with the MS2/MCP in vivo fluorescent labeling system, to screen for novel localized transcripts in polarized cells, focusing on the highly branched Drosophila class IV dendritic arborization neurons. Of a total of 541 lines screened, we identified 55 EP-MS2 insertions producing transcripts that were enriched in neuronal processes, particularly in dendrites. The 47 genes identified by these insertions encode molecularly diverse proteins, and are enriched for genes that function in neuronal development and physiology. RNAi-mediated knockdown confirmed roles for many of the candidate genes in dendrite morphogenesis. We propose that the transport of mRNAs encoded by these genes into the dendrites allows their expression to be regulated on a local scale during the dynamic developmental processes of dendrite outgrowth, branching, and/or remodeling.
Dendritic arbor morphology is a key determinant of neuronal function. Once established, dendrite branching patterns must be maintained as the animal develops to ensure receptive field coverage. The translational repressors Nanos (Nos) and Pumilio (Pum) are required to maintain dendrite growth and branching of Drosophila larval class IV dendritic arborization (da) neurons, but their specific regulatory role remains unknown. We show that Nos-Pum-mediated repression of the pro-apoptotic gene head involution defective (hid) is required to maintain a balance of dendritic growth and retraction in class IV da neurons and that upregulation of hid results in decreased branching because of an increase in caspase activity. The temporal requirement for nos correlates with an ecdysone-triggered switch in sensitivity to apoptotic stimuli that occurs during the mid-L3 transition. We find that hid is required during pupariation for caspase-dependent pruning of class IV da neurons and that Nos and Pum delay pruning. Together, these results suggest that Nos and Pum provide a crucial neuroprotective regulatory layer to ensure that neurons behave appropriately in response to developmental cues.
Drosophila larval dendritic arborization (da) neurons are a popular model for investigating mechanisms of neuronal morphogenesis. Da neurons develop in communication with the epidermal cells they innervate and thus their analysis benefits from in situ visualization of both neuronally and epidermally expressed proteins by immunofluorescence. Traditional methods of preparing larval fillets for immunofluorescence experiments leave intact the muscle tissue that covers most of the body wall, presenting several challenges to imaging neuronal and epidermal proteins. Here we describe a method for removing muscle tissue from Drosophila larval fillets. This protocol enables imaging of proteins that are otherwise obscured by muscle tissue, improves signal to noise ratio, and facilitates the use of super-resolution microscopy to study da neuron development.
Messenger RNA localization is a conserved mechanism for spatial control of protein synthesis, with key roles in generating cellular and developmental asymmetry. Whereas different transcripts may be targeted to the same subcellular domain, the extent to which their localization is coordinated is unclear. Using quantitative single-molecule imaging, we analysed the assembly of Drosophila germ plasm mRNA granules inherited by nascent germ cells. We find that the germ-cell-destined transcripts nanos, cyclin B and polar granule component travel within the oocyte as ribonucleoprotein particles containing single mRNA molecules but co-assemble into multi-copy heterogeneous granules selectively at the posterior of the oocyte. The stoichiometry and dynamics of assembly indicate a defined stepwise sequence. Our data suggest that co-packaging of these transcripts ensures their effective segregation to germ cells. In contrast, compartmentalization of the germline determinant oskar mRNA into different granules limits its entry into germ cells. This exclusion is required for proper germline development.
Drosophila telomeres constitute a remarkable exception to the telomerase mechanism. Although maintaining the same cytological and functional properties as telomerase maintain telomeres, Drosophila telomeres embed the telomere retrotransposons whose specific and highly regulated terminal transposition maintains the appropriate telomere length in this organism. Nevertheless, our current understanding of how the mechanism of the retrotransposon telomere works and which features are shared with the telomerase system is very limited. We report for the first time a detailed study of the localization of the main components that constitute the telomeres in Drosophila, HeT-A and TART RNAs and proteins. Our results in wild type and mutant strains reveal localizations of HeT-A Gag and TART Pol that give insight in the behavior of the telomere retrotransposons and their control. We find that TART Pol and HeT-A Gag only co-localize at the telomeres during the interphase of cells undergoing mitotic cycles. In addition, unexpected protein and RNA localizations with a well-defined pattern in cells such as the ovarian border cells and nurse cells, suggest possible strategies for the telomere transposons to reach the oocyte, and/or additional functions that might be important for the correct development of the organism. Finally, we have been able to visualize the telomere RNAs at different ovarian stages of development in wild type and mutant lines, demonstrating their presence in spite of being tightly regulated by the piRNA mechanism.
The large number of RNA-binding proteins and translation factors encoded in the Drosophila and other metazoan genomes predicts widespread use of post-transcriptional regulation in cellular and developmental processes. Previous studies identified roles for several RNA-binding proteins in dendrite branching morphogenesis of Drosophila larval sensory neurons. To determine the larger contribution of post-transcriptional gene regulation to neuronal morphogenesis, we conducted an RNA interference screen to identify additional Drosophila proteins annotated as either RNA-binding proteins or translation factors that function in producing the complex dendritic trees of larval class IV dendritic arborization neurons. We identified 88 genes encoding such proteins whose knockdown resulted in aberrant dendritic morphology, including alterations in dendritic branch number, branch length, field size, and patterning of the dendritic tree. In particular, splicing and translation initiation factors were associated with distinct and characteristic phenotypes, suggesting that different morphogenetic events are best controlled at specific steps in post-transcriptional messenger RNA metabolism. Many of the factors identified in the screen have been implicated in controlling the subcellular distributions and translation of maternal messenger RNAs; thus, common post-transcriptional regulatory strategies may be used in neurogenesis and in the generation of asymmetry in the female germline and embryo.
Intracellular mRNA localization is a conserved mechanism for spatially regulating protein production in polarized cells, such as neurons. The mRNA encoding the translational repressor Nanos (Nos) forms ribonucleoprotein (RNP) particles that are dendritically localized in Drosophila larval class IV dendritic arborization (da) neurons. In nos mutants, class IV da neurons exhibit reduced dendritic branching complexity, which is rescued by transgenic expression of wild-type nos mRNA but not by a localization-compromised nos derivative. While localization is essential for nos function in dendrite morphogenesis, the mechanism underlying the transport of nos RNP particles was unknown. We investigated the mechanism of dendritic nos mRNA localization by analyzing requirements for nos RNP particle motility in class IV da neuron dendrites through live imaging of fluorescently labeled nos mRNA. We show that dynein motor machinery components mediate transport of nos mRNA in proximal dendrites. Two factors, the RNA-binding protein Rumpelstiltskin and the germ plasm protein Oskar, which are required for diffusion/entrapment-mediated localization of nos during oogenesis, also function in da neurons for formation and transport of nos RNP particles. Additionally, we show that nos regulates neuronal function, most likely independent of its dendritic localization and function in morphogenesis. Our results reveal adaptability of localization factors for regulation of a target transcript in different cellular contexts.
Localized cytoplasmic determinants packaged as ribonucleoprotein (RNP) particles direct embryonic patterning and cell fate specification in a wide range of organisms. Once established, the asymmetric distributions of such RNP particles must be maintained, often over considerable developmental time. A striking example is the Drosophila germ plasm, which contains RNP particles whose localization to the posterior of the egg during oogenesis results in their asymmetric inheritance and segregation of germline from somatic fates in the embryo. Although actin-based anchoring mechanisms have been implicated, high-resolution live imaging revealed persistent trafficking of germ plasm RNP particles at the posterior cortex of the Drosophila oocyte. This motility relies on cortical microtubules, is mediated by kinesin and dynein motors, and requires coordination between the microtubule and actin cytoskeletons. Finally, we show that RNP particle motility is required for long-term germ plasm retention. We propose that anchoring is a dynamic state that renders asymmetries robust to developmental time and environmental perturbations.
The translational regulators Nanos (Nos) and Pumilio (Pum) work together to regulate the morphogenesis of dendritic arborization (da) neurons of the Drosophila larval peripheral nervous system. In contrast, Nos and Pum function in opposition to one another in the neuromuscular junction to regulate the morphogenesis and the electrophysiological properties of synaptic boutons. Neither the cellular functions of Nos and Pum nor their regulatory targets in neuronal morphogenesis are known. Here we show that Nos and Pum are required to maintain the dendritic complexity of da neurons during larval growth by promoting the outgrowth of new dendritic branches and the stabilization of existing dendritic branches, in part by regulating the expression of cut and head involution defective. Through an RNA interference screen we uncover a role for the translational co-factor Brain Tumor (Brat) in dendrite morphogenesis of da neurons and demonstrate that Nos, Pum, and Brat interact genetically to regulate dendrite morphogenesis. In the neuromuscular junction, Brat function is most likely specific for Pum in the presynaptic regulation of bouton morphogenesis. Our results reveal how the combinatorial use of co-regulators like Nos, Pum and Brat can diversify their roles in post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression for neuronal morphogenesis.
Localization of nanos (nos) mRNA to the posterior pole of the Drosophila oocyte is essential for abdominal segmentation and germline development during embryogenesis. Posterior localization is mediated by a complex cis-acting localization signal in the nos 3' untranslated region that comprises multiple partially redundant elements. Genetic analysis suggests that this signal is recognized by RNA-binding proteins and associated factors that package nos mRNA into a localization competent ribonucleoprotein complex. However, functional redundancy among localization elements has made the identification of individual localization factors difficult. Indeed, only a single direct-acting nos localization factor, Rumpelstiltskin (Rump), has been identified thus far. Through a sensitized genetic screen, we have now identified the Argonaute family member Aubergine (Aub) as a nos localization factor. Aub interacts with nos mRNA in vivo and co-purifies with Rump in an RNA-dependent manner. Our results support a role for Aub, independent of its function in RNA silencing, as a component of a nos mRNA localization complex.
Asymmetric mRNA localization is an effective mechanism for establishing cellular and developmental polarity. Posterior localization of oskar in the Drosophila oocyte targets the synthesis of Oskar to the posterior, where Oskar initiates the assembly of the germ plasm. In addition to harboring germline determinants, the germ plasm is required for localization and translation of the abdominal determinant nanos. Consequently, failure of oskar localization during oogenesis results in embryos lacking germ cells and abdominal segments. oskar accumulates at the oocyte posterior during mid-oogenesis through a well-studied process involving kinesin-mediated transport. Through live imaging of oskar mRNA, we have uncovered a second, mechanistically distinct phase of oskar localization that occurs during late oogenesis and results in amplification of the germ plasm. Analysis of two newly identified oskar localization factors, Rumpelstiltskin and Lost, that are required specifically for this late phase of oskar localization shows that germ plasm amplification ensures robust abdomen and germ cell formation during embryogenesis. In addition, our results indicate the importance of mechanisms for adapting mRNAs to utilize multiple localization pathways as necessitated by the dramatic changes in ovarian physiology that occur during oogenesis.
Translational control of gene expression is essential for development in organisms that rely on maternal mRNAs. In Drosophila, translation of maternal nanos (nos) mRNA must be restricted to the posterior of the early embryo for proper patterning of the anterior-posterior axis. Spatial control of nos translation is coordinated through the localization of a small subset of nos mRNA to the posterior pole late in oogenesis, activation of this localized mRNA, and repression of the remaining unlocalized nos mRNA throughout the bulk cytoplasm. Translational repression is mediated by the interaction of a cis-acting element in the nos 3' untranslated region with two proteins, Glorund (Glo) and Smaug (Smg), that function in the oocyte and embryo, respectively. The mechanism of Glo-dependent repression is unknown. Previous work suggests that Smg represses translation initiation but this model is not easily reconciled with evidence for polysome association of repressed nos mRNA. Using an in vitro translation system, we have decoupled translational repression of nos imposed during oogenesis from repression during embryogenesis. Our results suggest that both Glo and Smg regulate translation initiation, but by different mechanisms. Furthermore, we show that, during late oogenesis, nos translation is also repressed post-initiation and provide evidence that Glo mediates this event. This post-initiation block is maintained into embryogenesis during the transition to Smg-dependent regulation. We propose that the use of multiple modes of repression ensures inactivation of nos RNA that is translated at earlier stages of oogenesis and maintenance of this inactivate state throughout late oogenesis into embryogenesis.
BACKGROUND: In many organisms, germ cells are segregated from the soma through the inheritance of the specialized germ plasm, which contains mRNAs and proteins that specify germ cell fate and promote germline development. Whereas germ plasm assembly has been well characterized, mechanisms mediating germ plasm inheritance are poorly understood. In the Drosophila embryo, germ plasm is anchored to the posterior cortex, and nuclei that migrate into this region give rise to the germ cell progenitors, or pole cells. How the germ plasm interacts with these nuclei for pole cell induction and is selectively incorporated into the forming pole cells is not known. RESULTS: Live imaging of two conserved germ plasm components, nanos mRNA and Vasa protein, revealed that germ plasm segregation is a dynamic process involving active transport of germ plasm RNA-protein complexes coordinated with nuclear migration. We show that centrosomes accompanying posterior nuclei induce release of germ plasm from the cortex and recruit these components by dynein-dependent transport on centrosome-nucleated microtubules. As nuclei divide, continued transport on astral microtubules partitions germ plasm to daughter nuclei, leading to its segregation into pole cells. Disruption of these transport events prevents incorporation of germ plasm into pole cells and impairs germ cell development. CONCLUSIONS: Our results indicate that active transport of germ plasm is essential for its inheritance and ensures the production of a discrete population of germ cell progenitors endowed with requisite factors for germline development. Transport on astral microtubules may provide a general mechanism for the segregation of cell fate determinants.
Localization of the germ plasm to the posterior of the Drosophila oocyte is required for anteroposterior patterning and germ cell development during embryogenesis. While mechanisms governing the localization of individual germ plasm components have been elucidated, the process by which germ plasm assembly is restricted to the posterior pole is poorly understood. In this study, we identify a novel allele of bazooka (baz), the Drosophila homolog of Par-3, which has allowed the analysis of baz function throughout oogenesis. We demonstrate that baz is required for spatial restriction of the germ plasm and axis patterning, and we uncover multiple requirements for baz in regulating the organization of the oocyte microtubule cytoskeleton. Our results suggest that distinct cortical domains established by Par proteins polarize the oocyte through differential effects on microtubule organization. We further show that microtubule plus-end enrichment is sufficient to drive germ plasm assembly even at a distance from the oocyte cortex, suggesting that control of microtubule organization is critical not only for the localization of germ plasm components to the posterior of the oocyte but also for the restriction of germ plasm assembly to the posterior pole.
Precise temporal and spatial regulation of gene expression during Drosophila oogenesis is essential for patterning the anterior-posterior and dorsal-ventral body axes. Establishment of the anterior-posterior axis requires posterior localization and translational control of both oskar and nanos mRNAs. Establishment of the dorsal-ventral axis depends on the precise restriction of gurken mRNA and protein to the dorsal-anterior corner of the oocyte. We have previously shown that Glorund, the Drosophila hnRNP F/H homolog, contributes to anterior-posterior axis patterning by regulating translation of nanos mRNA, through a direct interaction with its 3' untranslated region. To investigate the pleiotropy of the glorund mutant phenotype, which includes dorsal-ventral and nuclear morphology defects, we searched for proteins that interact with Glorund. Here we show that Glorund is part of a complex containing the hnRNP protein Hrp48 and the splicing factor Half-pint and plays a role both in mRNA localization and nurse cell chromosome organization, probably by regulating alternative splicing of ovarian tumor. We propose that Glorund is a component of multiple protein complexes and functions both as a translational repressor and splicing regulator for anterior-posterior and dorsal-ventral patterning.
The asymmetric localization of four maternal mRNAs - gurken, bicoid, oskar and nanos - in the Drosophila oocyte is essential for the development of the embryonic body axes. Fluorescent imaging methods are now being used to visualize these mRNAs in living tissue, allowing dynamic analysis of their behaviors throughout the process of localization. This review summarizes recent findings from such studies that provide new insight into the elaborate cellular mechanisms that are used to transport mRNAs to different regions of the oocyte and to maintain their localized distributions during oogenesis.
Intracellular mRNA localization directs protein synthesis to particular subcellular domains to establish embryonic polarity in a variety of organisms. In Drosophila, bicoid (bcd) mRNA is prelocalized at the oocyte anterior. After fertilization, translation of this RNA produces a Bcd protein gradient that determines anterior cell fates  and . Analysis of bcd mRNA during late stages of oogenesis suggested a model for steady-state bcd localization by continual active transport . However, this mechanism cannot explain maintenance of bcd localization throughout the end of oogenesis, when microtubules disassemble in preparation for embryogenesis  and , or retention of bcd at the anterior in mature oocytes, which can remain dormant for weeks before fertilization . Here, we elucidate the path and mechanism of sustained bcd mRNA transport by direct observation of bcd RNA particle translocation in living oocytes. We show that bcd mRNA shifts from continuous active transport to stable actin-dependent anchoring at the end of oogenesis. Egg activation triggers bcd release from the anterior cortex for proper deployment in the embryo, probably through reorganization of the actin cytoskeleton. These findings uncover a surprising parallel between flies and frogs, as cortically tethered Xenopus Vg1 mRNA undergoes a similar redistribution during oocyte maturation . Our results thus highlight a conserved mechanism for regulating mRNA anchoring and redeployment during the oocyte-to-embryo transition.
The development of a functional germline is essential for species propagation. The nanos (nos) gene plays an evolutionarily conserved role in germline development and is also essential for abdominal patterning in Drosophila. A small fraction of nos mRNA is localized to the germ plasm at the posterior pole of the Drosophila embryo, where it becomes incorporated into the germ cells. Germ plasm associated nos mRNA is translated to produce a gradient of Nos protein that patterns the abdomen, whereas the remaining unlocalized RNA is translationally repressed to allow anterior development. Using transgenes that compromise nos mRNA localization and translational regulation, we show that wild-type body patterning can ensue without nos mRNA localization provided that nos translation is properly modulated. In contrast, localization of nos to the germ plasm, but not translational regulation, is essential for nos function in the developing germ cells. We propose that an imperative for nos localization in producing a functional germline has preserved an inefficient localization mechanism.
Anterior-posterior axis patterning of the Drosophila embryo requires Nanos activity selectively in the posterior. This spatial asymmetry of Nanos is generated by the localization of nanos mRNA to the posterior pole of the embryo, where it is subsequently translated. Posterior localization of nanos is mediated by a complex cis-acting localization signal in its 3' untranslated region comprising several partially redundant localization elements. This localization signal redundancy has hampered the identification of trans-acting factors that act specifically to effect posterior localization of nanos. Here, we have used a biochemical approach to identify Rumpelstiltskin, a Drosophila heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein (hnRNP) M homolog, which binds directly to an individual nanos localization element. Rumpelstiltskin associates with nanos mRNA in vitro and in vivo, and binding by Rumpelstiltskin correlates with localization element function in vivo. Through analysis of a rumpelstiltskin null mutation by genetic strategies that circumvent redundancy, we demonstrate that Rumpelstiltskin regulates anterior-posterior axis patterning by functioning as a direct-acting nanos mRNA localization factor.
During Drosophila oogenesis, the targeted localization of gurken (grk) mRNA leads to the establishment of the axis polarity of the egg. In early stages of oogenesis, grk mRNA is found at the posterior of the oocyte, whereas in the later stages grk mRNA is positioned at the dorsal anterior corner of the oocyte. In order to visualize the real-time localization and anchorage of endogenous grk mRNA in living oocytes, we have utilized the MS2-MCP system. We show that MCP-GFP-tagged endogenous grk mRNA localizes properly within wild-type oocytes and behaves aberrantly in mutant backgrounds. Fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (FRAP) experiments of localized grk mRNA in egg chambers reveal a difference in the dynamics of grk mRNA between young and older egg chambers. grk mRNA particles, as a population, are highly dynamic molecules that steadily lose their dynamic nature as oogenesis progresses. This difference in dynamics is attenuated in K10 and sqd(1) mutants such that mislocalized grk mRNA in older stages is much more dynamic compared with that in wild-type controls. By contrast, in flies with compromised dynein activity, properly localized grk mRNA is much more static. Taken together, we have observed the nature of localized grk mRNA in live oocytes and propose that its maintenance changes from a dynamic to a static process as oogenesis progresses.
Spatial control of mRNA translation can generate cellular asymmetries and functional specialization of polarized cells like neurons. A requirement for the translational repressor Nanos (Nos) in the Drosophila larval peripheral nervous system (PNS) implicates translational control in dendrite morphogenesis . Nos was first identified by its requirement in the posterior of the early embryo for abdomen formation . Nos synthesis is targeted to the posterior pole of the oocyte and early embryo through translational repression of unlocalized nos mRNA coupled with translational activation of nos mRNA localized at the posterior pole [3, 4]. Abolishment of nos localization prevents abdominal development, whereas translational derepression of unlocalized nos mRNA suppresses head/thorax development, emphasizing the importance of spatial regulation of nos mRNA [3, 5]. Loss and overexpression of Nos affect dendrite branching complexity in class IV dendritic arborization (da) neurons, suggesting that nos also might be regulated in these larval sensory neurons . Here, we show that localization and translational control of nos mRNA are essential for da neuron morphogenesis. RNA-protein interactions that regulate nos translation in the oocyte and early embryo also regulate nos in the PNS. Live imaging of nos mRNA shows that the cis-acting signal responsible for posterior localization in the oocyte/embryo mediates localization to the processes of class IV da neurons but suggests a different transport mechanism. Targeting of nos mRNA to the processes of da neurons may reflect a local requirement for Nos protein in dendritic translational control.
Patterning of the anterior-posterior body axis of the Drosophila embryo requires production of Nanos protein selectively in the posterior. Spatially restricted Nanos synthesis is accomplished by translational repression of unlocalized nanos mRNA together with translational activation of posteriorly localized nanos. Repression of unlocalized nanos mRNA is mediated by a bipartite translational control element (TCE) in its 3' untranslated region. TCE stem-loop II functions during embryogenesis, through its interaction with the Smaug repressor. Stem-loop III represses unlocalized nanos mRNA during oogenesis, but trans-acting factors that carry out this function have remained elusive. Here we identify a Drosophila hnRNP, Glorund, that interacts specifically with stem-loop III. We establish that the ability of the TCE to repress translation in vivo reflects its ability to bind Glorund in vitro. These data, together with the analysis of a glorund null mutant, reveal a specific role for an hnRNP in repression of nanos translation during oogenesis.
Localization of bicoid mRNA to the anterior of the Drosophila oocyte is essential to produce the Bicoid protein gradient that patterns the anterior-posterior axis of the embryo. Previous studies have characterized a microtubule-dependent pathway for bicoid mRNA localization during midoogenesis, when bicoid first accumulates at the anterior. We show that the majority of bicoid is actually localized later in oogenesis, when the only known mechanism for mRNA localization is based on passive trapping. Through live imaging of fluorescently tagged endogenous bicoid mRNA, we identify a temporally distinct pathway for bicoid localization in late oocytes that utilizes a specialized subpopulation of anterior microtubules and dynein. The directional movement of bicoid RNA particles within the oocyte observed here is consistent with dynein-mediated transport. Furthermore, our results indicate that association of bicoid with the anterior oocyte cortex is dynamic and support a model for maintenance of bicoid localization by continual active transport on microtubules.
Developmental control of translation is frequently mediated by regulatory elements that reside within 3' untranslated regions (3' UTRs). Two stem-loops within the nanos 3' UTR translational control element (TCE) act independently to direct translational repression of maternal nanos mRNA in the ovary or embryo. We have previously shown that the nanos TCE can also function in select somatic sites. Using an ectopic expression screen, we now identify a new site of TCE function, the dorsal pouch epithelium. Analysis of TCE mutants reveals that TCE activity in the dorsal pouch does not depend on either of the stem-loops required for maternal TCE function, but instead requires a third feature-a sequence that closely matches the Bearded box, a regulatory motif found in the 3' UTRs of several Notch pathway genes. In addition, we identify pleiohomeotic mRNA as an endogenous candidate for regulation by Bearded box-like motifs in the dorsal pouch. Together, these results suggest that the TCE has appropriated a conserved regulatory motif to expand its function to somatic tissues.
Translational control of gene expression plays a fundamental role in the early development of many organisms. In Drosophila, selective translation of nanos mRNA localized to the germ plasm at the posterior of the embryo, together with translational repression of nanos in the bulk cytoplasm, is essential for development of the anteroposterior body pattern. We show that both components to spatial control of nanos translation initiate during oogenesis and that translational repression is initially independent of Smaug, an embryonic repressor of nanos. Repression during oogenesis and embryogenesis are mediated by distinct stem loops within the nanos 3' untranslated region; the Smaug-binding stem-loop acts strictly in the embryo, whereas a second stem-loop functions in the oocyte. Thus, independent regulatory modules with temporally distinct activities contribute to spatial regulation of nanos translation. We propose that nanos evolved to exploit two different stage-specific translational regulatory mechanisms.
BACKGROUND: Localization of nanos mRNA to the posterior pole of the Drosophila embryo directs local synthesis of Nanos protein that is essential for patterning of the anterior-posterior body axis and germ cell function. While nanos RNA is synthesized by the ovarian nurse cells and appears at the posterior pole of the ooctye late in oogenesis, the mechanism by which this RNA is translocated to and anchored at the oocyte posterior is unknown. RESULTS: By labeling endogenous nanos RNA with GFP, we have been able to follow the dynamic pathway of nanos localization in living oocytes. We demonstrate that nanos localization initiates immediately upon nurse cell dumping, whereby diffusion, enhanced by microtubule-dependent cytoplasmic movements, translocates nanos RNA from the nurse cells to the ooctye posterior. At the posterior, nanos is trapped by association, in particles, with the posteriorly localized germ plasm. Actin-dependent anchoring of nanos RNA complexed to the germ plasm at the posterior maintains localization in the face of rapid cytoplasmic movements. CONCLUSIONS: These results reveal a diffusion-based, late-acting posterior localization mechanism for long-range transport of nanos mRNA. This mechanism differs from directed transport-based localization mechanisms in its reliance on bulk movement of RNA.
Translational repression of maternal nanos (nos) mRNA by a cis-acting Translational Control Element (TCE) in the nos 3'UTR is critical for anterior-posterior patterning of the Drosophila embryo. We show, through ectopic expression experiments, that the nos TCE is capable of repressing gene expression at later stages of development in neuronal cells that regulate the molting cycle. Our results predict additional targets of TCE-mediated repression within the nervous system. They also suggest that mechanisms that regulate maternal mRNAs, like TCE-mediated repression, may function more widely during development to spatially or temporally control gene expression.
Gavis Lab Department of Molecular Biology 401 Schultz Lab Washington Road Princeton, NJ 08544