Dendrite arborization patterns are critical determinants of neuronal function. To explore the basis of transcriptional regulation in dendrite pattern formation, RNA interference (RNAi) was used to screen 730 transcriptional regulators and 78 genes involved in patterning the stereotyped dendritic arbors of class I da neurons were identified in Drosophila. Most of these transcriptional regulators affect dendrite morphology without altering the number of class I dendrite arborization (da) neurons and fall primarily into three groups. Group A genes control both primary dendrite extension and lateral branching, hence the overall dendritic field. Nineteen genes within group A act to increase arborization, whereas 20 other genes restrict dendritic coverage. Group B genes appear to balance dendritic outgrowth and branching. Nineteen group B genes function to promote branching rather than outgrowth, and two others have the opposite effects. Finally, 10 group C genes are critical for the routing of the dendritic arbors of individual class I da neurons. Thus, multiple genetic programs operate to calibrate dendritic coverage, to coordinate the elaboration of primary versus secondary branches, and to lay out these dendritic branches in the proper orientation (Parrish, 2006; Full text of article).
To assay for the stereotyped dendrite arborization pattern of class I da neurons (hereafter referred to as class I neurons) in RNAi-based analysis of dendrite development, a Gal4 enhancer trap line (Gal4221) was used that is highly expressed in class I neurons and weakly expressed in class IV neurons during embryogenesis. Because of the simple and stereotyped dendritic arborization patterns of the dorsally located ddaD and ddaE, the studies of dendrite development focused on these two dorsally located class I neurons (Parrish, 2006).
To establish that RNAi is an efficient method to systematically study dendrite development in the Drosophila embryonic PNS, it was demonstrated that injecting embryos with double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) for green fluorescent protein (gfp) is sufficient to attenuate Gal-4221-driven expression of an mCD8::GFP fusion protein as measured by confocal microscopy. Next whether RNAi could efficiently phenocopy loss-of-function mutants known to affect dendrite development was tested. Similar to the mutant phenotype of short stop (shot), which encodes an actin/microtubule cross-linking protein, shot(RNAi) caused routing defects, dorsal overextension, and a reduction in lateral branching of dorsally extended primary dendrites. Likewise, RNAi of sequoia or flamingo resulted in overextension of ddaD and ddaE, RNAi of hamlet resulted in supernumerary class I neurons, and RNAi of tumbleweed resulted in supernumerary class I neurons and a range of arborization defects, consistent with the reported mutant phenotypes. Thus, RNAi is effective in generating reduction of function phenotypes in embryonic class I dendrites (Parrish, 2006).
In contrast to the genes that coordinately affect dorsal dendrite outgrowth and lateral branching/outgrowth, a group of 21 genes (group B) were identified that have opposing effects on dendrite outgrowth and branching, suggesting that dendrite outgrowth and branching might partially antagonize one another. RNAi of 19 of these genes resulted in dorsal overextension of primary dendrites and a reduction in lateral branching/lateral branch extension. In the most severe cases, such as RNAi of the transcriptional repressor snail, dorsal overextension of almost completely unbranched dendrites was found. Like snail(RNAi), RNAi of the nuclear hormone receptor knirps, the transcriptional repressor l(3)mbt, as well as 15 other genes, all caused dorsal overextension of primary dendrites. As in the case of genes that normally limit arborization, RNAi of these genes rarely caused dendrites to cross the dorsal midline (Parrish, 2006).
As an indication of the hypomorphic nature of many of the alleles and maternal rescue of gene function in mutant embryos, focus was place on dendrite defects that were first apparent during larval stages. For example, a mutant allele of Drosophila Mi-2, which encodes a Hunchback-interacting ATP-dependant chromatin remodeling factor, shows only minor defects in late embryonic stages, but shows an obvious reduction in arborization by 72 h after egg laying. Since Mi-2(RNAi) demonstrates that Mi-2 is required for embryonic dendrite arborization, these findings suggest that Mi-2 is continuously required for class I neurons to maintain proper dendrite arborization patterns. Similarly, the dendritic overbranching associated with a P-element insertion allele of Adf1 was first apparent after embryonic stages, although Adf1(RNAi) caused overbranching in embryos. Class I dendritic arbors of Adf1 mutants are indistinguishable from wild-type neurons until 96 h AEL. By 144 h AEL, ddaE arbors of Adf1 mutants showed a greater than twofold increase in branch number when compared with time-matched wild-type controls. Interestingly, ddaD showed only very minor branching defects in Adf1 mutants, suggesting that ddaD and ddaE might have distinct requirements for Adf1. Similarly, mutant alleles of either E(bx) or Elongin C showed dendrite branching defects only at late larval stages. These findings indicate that Adf1, E(bx), and Elongin C are continuously required to inhibit branching in class I neurons, demonstrating that although class I neurons have very little new branching after embryogenesis, they still retain the capacity to branch (Parrish, 2006).
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date revised: 10 February 2013
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