The Interactive Fly

Zygotically transcribed genes

Hippo/Warts tumor suppressor pathway

  • Delineation of a Fat tumor suppressor pathway
  • Differential regulation of the Hippo pathway by adherens junctions and apical-basal cell polarity modules
  • Localization of Hippo signalling complexes and Warts activation in vivo
  • Impaired Hippo signaling promotes Rho1-JNK-dependent growth
  • Cabut/dTIEG associates with the transcription factor Yorkie for growth control
  • Critical role for Fat/Hippo and IIS/Akt pathways downstream of Ultrabithorax during haltere specification in Drosophila
  • Zyxin antagonizes the FERM protein Expanded to couple F-actin and Yorkie-dependent organ growth
  • Crosstalk between mitochondrial fusion and the Hippo pathway in controlling cell proliferation during Drosophila development
  • The Hippo pathway targets Rae1 to regulate mitosis and organ size and to feed back to regulate upstream components Merlin, Hippo, and Warts
  • The Strip-Hippo pathway regulates synaptic terminal formation by modulating actin organization at the Drosophila neuromuscular synapses
  • Localized JNK signaling regulates organ size during development

    Delineation of a Fat tumor suppressor pathway

    Recent studies in Drosophila of the protocadherins Dachsous and Fat suggest that they act as ligand and receptor, respectively, for an intercellular signaling pathway that influences tissue polarity, growth and gene expression, but the basis for signaling downstream of Fat has remained unclear. This study characterizes functional relationships among Drosophila tumor suppressors and identifies the kinases Discs overgrown and Warts as components of a Fat signaling pathway. fat, discs overgrown and warts regulate a common set of downstream genes in multiple tissues. Genetic experiments position the action of discs overgrown (dco) upstream of the Fat pathway component dachs, whereas warts acts downstream of dachs. Warts protein coprecipitates with Dachs, and Warts protein levels are influenced by fat, dachs and discs overgrown in vivo, consistent with its placement as a downstream component of the pathway. The tumor suppressors Merlin, expanded (ex), hippo, salvador (sav) and mob as tumor suppressor (mats) also share multiple Fat pathway phenotypes but regulate Warts activity independently. These results functionally link what had been four disparate groups of Drosophila tumor suppressors, establish a basic framework for Fat signaling from receptor to transcription factor and implicate Warts as an integrator of multiple growth control signals (Cho, 2006).

    Since Dachs is required for loss of Wts protein in fat mutants, and Dachs encodes a large Myosin protein, a model was considered in which Dachs acts as a scaffold to link Wts to proteins that promote Wts proteolysis, analogous to the roles of Costal2 in Hedgehog signaling, or APC in Wnt signaling. This model predicts that Dachs should be able to bind to Wts. To evaluate this possibility, tagged forms of Dachs and Wts were coexpressed in cultured cells and assayed for coimmunoprecipitation. These experiments identified a specific and reproducible interaction between Dachs and Wts (Cho, 2006).

    Recent studies have identified the transcriptional coactivator Yorkie (Yki) as a downstream component of the Hippo pathway and a substrate of Wts kinase activity. Phosphorylation of Yki by Wts inactivates Yki, and overexpression of Yki phenocopies wts mutation. The determination that the Fat tumor suppressor pathway acts through modulation of Wts thus predicts that Yki should also be involved in Fat signaling. When the influence of Yki overexpression was examined on Fat target genes, expression of Wg in the proximal wing, Ser in the proximal leg and fj in the wing and eye were each upregulated by Yki overexpression, consistent with the inference that Fat tumor suppressor pathway signaling acts through Yki (Cho, 2006).

    In order to identify additional components of the Fat tumor suppressor pathway, advantage was taken of the observation that loss of fat in clones of cells is associated with an induction of Wingless (Wg) expression in cells just proximal to the normal ring of Wg expression in the proximal wing, reflective of its role in distal-to-proximal wing signaling. It was reasoned that this influence on Wg expression could be used to screen other Drosophila tumor suppressors for their potential to contribute to Fat signaling. Analysis of mutant clones in the proximal wing identified dco, ex, mats, sav, hpo and wts as candidate components of the Fat tumor suppressor pathway. As for fat, mutation of each of these genes is associated with induction of Wg expression specifically in the proximal wing, whereas Wg expression is not affected in more distal or more proximal wing cells. Although Wg expression often seems slightly elevated within its normal domain, the effect of these mutations is most obvious in the broadening of the Wg expression ring. The induction of Wg expression does not seem to be a nonspecific consequence of the altered growth or cell affinity associated with these mutations, since Wg expression is unaffected by expression of the growth-promoting microRNA gene bantam or by expression of genes that alter cell affinity in the proximal wing (Cho, 2006).

    dco encodes D. melanogaster casein kinase I delta/epsilon. The overgrowth phenotype that gave the gene its name is observed in allelic combinations that include a hypomorphic allele, dco3, and it is this allele that is associated with induction of Wg. Null mutations of dco actually result in an 'opposite' phenotype: discs fail to grow, and clones of cells mutant for null alleles fail to proliferate. This is likely to reflect requirements for dco in multiple, distinct processes, as casein kinase I proteins phosphorylate many different substrates, and dco has been implicated in circadian rhythms, Wnt signaling and Hedgehog signaling (Cho, 2006).

    Mer and ex encode two structurally related FERM domain-containing proteins. ex was first identified as a Drosophila tumor suppressor, whereas Drosophila Mer was first identified based on its structural similarity to human Merlin. Mutation of Mer alone causes only mild effects on imaginal disc growth, but Mer and ex are partially redundant, and double mutants show more severe overgrowth phenotypes than either single mutant. Consistent with this, elevation of Wg expression was observed in ex mutant clones (7/10 proximal wing clones induced Wg) and not in Mer mutant clones (0/8 clones), whereas Mer ex double mutant clones showed even more severe effects on Wg than ex single mutant clones. Because of the partial redundancy between Mer and ex, when possible, focus was placed for subsequent analysis on Mer ex double mutant clones (Cho, 2006).

    Wts, Mats, Sav and Hpo interact biochemically, show similar overgrowth phenotypes and regulate common target genes. Mats, Sav and Hpo are all thought to act by regulating the phosphorylation state and thereby the activity of Wts. Mutation of any one of these genes is associated with upregulation of Wg in the proximal wing. The effects of sav (47/84 clones in the proximal wing induced Wg) and hpo (23/31 clones) were weaker than those of mats (19/19 clones) and wts (92/97 clones), but this might result from differences in perdurance or allele strength. Because sav, hpo and mats all act through Wts, focus for most of the subsequent analysis was placed on wts (Cho, 2006).

    The observation that mutation of dco, Mer, ex, mats, sav, hpo or wts all share the distinctive upregulation of Wg expression in the proximal wing observed in fat mutants suggests that the functions of these genes are closely linked. To further investigate this, the effects of these tumor suppressors were characterized on other transcriptional targets of Fat signaling. Expression of the Notch ligand Ser is upregulated unevenly within fat mutant cells in the proximal region of the leg disc. A very similar upregulation occurred in dco3, Mer ex, and wts mutant clones. fj is a target of Fat signaling in both wing and eye imaginal discs, and fj expression was also upregulated in dco3, Mer ex, or wts mutant clones. The observation that these genes share multiple transcriptional targets in different Drosophila tissues implies that they act together in a common process (Cho, 2006).

    The hypothesis that Fat pathway genes and Hippo pathway genes are linked predicts that not only should Fat target genes be regulated by Hippo pathway genes, but Hippo pathway target genes should also be regulated by Fat pathway genes. The cell cycle regulator CycE and the inhibitor of apoptosis Diap1 (encoded by thread) have been widely used as diagnostic downstream targets to assign genes to the Hippo pathway. Notably, then, clones of cells mutant for fat showed upregulation of both Diap1 and CycE protein expression. Genes whose expression is upregulated within fat mutant cells (such as wg, Ser and fj) have been shown previously to be induced along the borders of cells expressing either fj or dachsous (ds), and Diap1 is also upregulated around the borders of ds- or fj-expressing clones. That thread is affected by fat at a transcriptional level was confirmed by examining a thread-lacZ enhancer trap line. The regulation of Diap1 by the Hippo pathway is thought to be responsible for a characteristic eye phenotype in which an excess of interommatidial cells results from their failure to undergo apoptosis; an increase was also observed in interommatidial cells in fat mutant clones. Upregulation of both Diap1 and CycE is also observed in Mer ex double mutant clones. In dco3 mutant clones, consistent upregulation was detected only for Diap1, and CycE was upregulated only weakly and inconsistently. dco3 also has weaker effects on Wg and fj expression; the weaker effects of dco3 could result from its hypomorphic nature. ex has recently been characterized as another Hippo pathway target, and an ex-lacZ enhancer trap that is upregulated in wts or Mer ex mutant clones is also upregulated in fat or dco3 mutant clones. Analysis of ex transcription by in situ hybridization also indicated that ex is regulated by fat. Altogether, this analysis of Hippo pathway targets further supports the conclusion that the functions of the Fat pathway, the Hippo pathway and the tumor suppressors Mer, ex and dco are linked (Cho, 2006).

    Genetic epistasis experiments provide a critical framework for evaluating the functional relationships among genes that act in a common pathway. The relationships was evaluated between each of the tumor suppressors linked to the Fat pathway and dachs, using both wing disc growth and proximal Wg expression as phenotypic assays. dachs is the only previously identified downstream component of the Fat tumor suppressor pathway. It acts oppositely to fat and is epistatic to fat in terms of both growth and gene expression phenotypes (Cho, 2006).

    dachs is also epistatic to dco3 for overall wing disc growth and for proximal Wg expression. The epistasis of dachs to dco3 implies that the overgrowth phenotype of dco3 is specifically related to its influence on Fat signaling, as opposed to participation of dco in other pathways. By contrast to the epistasis of dachs to dco3, both wts and ex are epistatic to dachs for disc overgrowth phenotypes, and wts and Mer ex are epistatic to dachs in their influence on proximal Wg expression. Together, these epistasis experiments suggest that dco acts upstream of dachs, whereas Mer ex and wts act downstream of dachs (Cho, 2006).

    Because wts and Mer ex have similar phenotypes, their epistatic relationship cannot be determined using loss-of-function alleles. However, overexpression of ex inhibits growth and promotes apoptosis, which suggests that ex overexpression affects ex gain-of-function. Clones of cells overexpressing ex are normally composed of only a few cells, and over time most are lost, but coexpression with the baculovirus apoptosis inhibitor p35 enabled recovery of ex-expressing clones. These ex- and p35-expressing clones were associated with repression of proximal Wg expression during early- to mid-third instar, as has been described for dachs2, consistent with ex overexpression acting as a gain-of-function allele in terms of its influence on Fat signaling. In epistasis experiments using overexpressed ex and mutation of wts, wts was epistatic; Wg was induced in the proximal wing. Additionally, when wts is mutant, coexpression with p35 was no longer needed to ensure the viability and growth of ex-expressing clones, indicating that wts is also epistatic to ex for growth and survival. Consistent with this conclusion, others have recently described phenotypic similarities between Mer ex and hpo pathway mutants and have reported that hpo is epistatic to Mer ex (Cho, 2006).

    When Fat was overexpressed, a slight reduction was detected in Wg expression during early- to mid-third instar, suggesting that overexpression can result in a weak gain-of-function phenotype. Clones of cells overexpressing Fat but mutant for dco3 still showed reduced Wg levels, whereas clones of cells overexpressing Fat but mutant for warts showed increased Wg levels. Although experiments in which the epistatic mutation is not a null allele cannot be regarded as definitive, these results are consistent with the conclusion that wts acts downstream of fat and suggest that dco might act upstream of fat (Cho, 2006).

    The epistasis results described above suggest an order of action for Fat tumor suppressor pathway genes in which dco acts upstream of fat, fat acts upstream of dachs, dachs acts upstream of Mer and ex, and Mer and ex act upstream of wts. However, the determination that one gene is epistatic to another does not prove that the epistatic gene is biochemically downstream, as it is also possible that they act in parallel but converge upon a common target. Thus, to better define the functional and hierarchical relationships among these genes, experiments were initiated to investigate the possibility that genetically upstream components influence the phosphorylation, stability or localization of genetically downstream (that is, epistatic) components. Focus in this study was placed on the most downstream of these components, Wts. As available antibodies did not specifically recognize Wts in imaginal discs, advantage was taken of the existence of functional, Myc-tagged Wts-expressing transgenes (Myc:Wts) to investigate potential influences of upstream Fat pathway genes on Wts protein. In wing imaginal discs, Myc:Wts staining outlines cells, suggesting that it is preferentially localized near the plasma membrane, and it was confirmed that expression of Myc:Wts under tub-Gal4 control can rescue wts mutation. Notably, mutation of fat results in a reduction of Myc:Wts staining. As Myc:Wts is expressed under the control of a heterologous promoter in these experiments, this must reflect a post-transcriptional influence on Wts protein. fat does not exert a general influence on the levels of Hippo pathway components; fat mutant clones had no detectable influence on the expression of hemagglutinin epitope-tagged Sav (HA:Sav) (Cho, 2006).

    The decrease in Wts protein associated with mutation of fat contrasts with studies of the regulation of Wts activity by the Hippo pathway, which have identified changes in Wts activity due to changes in its phosphorylation state. To directly compare regulation of Wts by Fat with regulation of Wts by other upstream genes, Myc:Wts staining was examined in ex, sav and mats mutant clones. In each of these experiments, the levels and localization of Myc:Wts in mutant cells was indistinguishable from that in neighboring wild-type cells (Cho, 2006).

    Since Myc:Wts appears preferentially localized near the plasma membrane, it was conceivable that the apparent decrease in staining reflected delocalization of Wts, rather than destabilization. To investigate this possibility, Wts levels were examined by protein blotting. Antisera against endogenous Wts recognized a band of the expected mobility in lysates of wing imaginal discs or cultured cells, and this band was enhanced when Wts was overexpressed. The intensity of this band was reproducibly diminished in fat or dco3 homozygous mutant animals but was not diminished in fat or dco3 heterozygotes or in ex mutants. Conversely, levels of Hpo, Sav, Mer or Mats were not noticeably affected by fat mutation (Cho, 2006).

    The determination that Wts is affected by Fat, together with the genetic studies described above, place Wts within the Fat signaling pathway, as opposed to a parallel pathway that converges on common transcriptional targets. Indeed, given that even hypomorphic alleles of wts result in disc overgrowth, the evident reduction in Wts levels might suffice to explain the overgrowth of fat mutants. As a further test of this possibility, Wts levels were examined in fat dachs double mutants. As the influence of Fat on gene expression and growth is absolutely dependent upon Dachs, if Fat influences growth through modulation of Wts, its influence on Wts levels should be reversed by mutation of dachs. Examination of Myc:Wts staining in fat dachs clones and of Wts protein levels in fat dachs mutant discs confirmed this prediction (Cho, 2006).

    Prior observations, including the influences of fat and ds on gene expression, and the ability of the Fat intracellular domain to rescue fat phenotypes, suggested that Fat functions as a signal-transducing receptor. By identifying kinases that act both upstream (Dco) and downstream (Wts) of the Fat effector Dachs and by linking Fat to the transcriptional coactivator Yki, these results have provided additional support for the conclusion that Fat functions as a component of a signaling pathway and have delineated core elements of this pathway from receptor to transcription factor. Fat activity is regulated, in ways yet to be defined, by Ds and Fj. The influences of Fat on gene expression, growth, and cell affinity, as well as on Wts stability, are completely dependent on Dachs, indicating that Dachs is a critical effector of Fat signaling. Since Dachs can associate with Wts or a Wts-containing complex, it is suggested that Dachs might act as a scaffold to assemble a Wts degradation complex. The observations that Fat, Ds and Fj modulate the subcellular localization of Dachs, that Wts is preferentially localized near the membrane and that Dachs accumulates at the membrane in the absence of Fat, suggest a simple model whereby Fat signaling regulates Wts stability by modulating the accumulation of Dachs at the membrane and thereby its access to Wts. The working model is that dco3 is defective in the phosphorylation of a substrate in the Fat pathway, but the recessive nature of dco3, the genetic epistasis experiments, and biochemical experiments argue that this substrate is not Wts, and further work is required to define the biochemical role of Dco in Fat signaling (Cho, 2006).

    In addition to identifying core components of the Fat pathway, the results establish close functional links between the Fat pathway, the Hippo pathway and the FERM-domain tumor suppressors Mer and Ex. The common phenotypes observed among these tumor suppressors can be explained by their common ability to influence Wts. However, they seem to do this in distinct ways, acting in parallel pathways that converge on Wts rather than a single signal transduction pathway. The Fat pathway modulates levels of Wts, apparently by influencing Wts stability. By contrast, the Hippo pathway seems to regulate the activity of Wts by modulating its phosphorylation state. Thus, Wts seems to act as an integrator of distinct growth signals, which can be transmitted by both the Fat pathway and the Hippo pathway. It has been suggested that Mer and Ex also act through the Hippo pathway, although present experiments cannot exclude the possibility that Mer and Ex act in parallel to Hpo. Moreover, it should be noted that Mats might regulate Wts independently of Hpo and Sav and hence function within a distinct, parallel pathway. Although it is simplest to think of parallel pathways, there is also evidence for cross-talk. fj and ex are both components and targets of these pathways. Thus, they can be regarded as feedback targets within their respective pathways, but their regulation also constitutes a point of cross-talk between pathways. Another possible point of cross-talk is suggested by the observation that levels of Fat are elevated within Mer ex mutant clones. Although the potential for cross-talk complicates assessments of the relationships between tumor suppressors, the observations that fat, dco3 and dachs affect Warts protein levels in vivo, whereas ex, hippo, sav and mats do not, argues that there are at least two distinct pathways that converge on Warts. This conclusion is also consistent with the observations that ex, hippo, sav and mats can influence Wts phosphorylation in cultured cell assays, but Fat, Dachs and Dco do not (Cho, 2006).

    Although the Fat and Hippo pathways converge on Wts, Hippo pathway mutants seem more severe. Thus, hpo, wts or mats mutant clones show a distinctive disorganization and outgrowth of epithelial tissues that is not observed in fat mutant clones, and they show a greater increase in interommatidial cells. This difference presumably accounts for the previous failure to recognize the tight functional link between Fat and Hippo signaling, and it can be explained by the finding that Wts levels are reduced but not completely absent in fat mutant cells. Thus, fat would be expected to resemble a hypomorphic allele of wts rather than a null allele, and consistent with this, a hypomorphic allele, wtsP2, results in strong overgrowth phenotypes. The effects of Yki overexpression on growth and target gene expression can be even stronger than those of fat or wts mutations, which suggests that Yki levels become limiting when upstream tumor suppressors are mutant (Cho, 2006).

    fat encodes a protocadherin, which in the past has led to speculation that its influences on growth and cell affinity might result from Fat acting as a cell adhesion molecule. However, all of the effects of fat on growth and affinity require dachs, which is also required for the effects of fat on transcription. Additionally, targets of Fat signaling include genes that can influence growth and affinity; recent studies identified an influence of fat on E-cadherin expression, and as describe in this study, Fat influences CycE and Diap1 expression. Thus, one can account for the influence of fat on growth and affinity by its ability to regulate gene expression. fat interacts genetically with other signaling pathways, including EGFR and Wnt, and in some cells Fat signaling also influences the expression of ligands (such as Wg and Ser) for other signaling pathways. Regulation of these ligands contributes to fat overgrowth phenotypes, but since clonal analysis indicates that fat is autonomously required for growth control in most imaginal cells, the principal mechanism by which fat influences growth presumably involves the regulation of general targets (Cho, 2006).

    Normal tissue growth and patterning depend on a relatively small number of highly conserved intercellular signaling pathways. The Fat pathway is essential for the normal regulation of growth and PCP in most or all of the external tissues of the fly and also participates in local cell fate decisions. In this regard, its importance to fly development can be considered comparable to that of other major signaling pathways. Although the biological roles and even the existence of a Fat pathway in mammals remain to be demonstrated, there is clear evidence that the mammalian Warts homologs Lats1 and Lats2 act as tumor suppressors and that a mammalian Yorkie homolog, YAP, can act as an oncogene. Moreover, other genes in the Drosophila Fat pathway have apparent structural homologs in mammals. Thus, it is likely that mammals also have a Fat tumor suppressor pathway that functions in growth control (Cho, 2006).

    Differential regulation of the Hippo pathway by adherens junctions and apical-basal cell polarity modules

    Adherens junctions (AJs) and cell polarity complexes are key players in the establishment and maintenance of apical-basal cell polarity. Loss of AJs or basolateral polarity components promotes tumor formation and metastasis. Recent studies in vertebrate models show that loss of AJs or loss of the basolateral component Scribble (Scrib) cause deregulation of the Hippo tumor suppressor pathwayand hyperactivation of its downstream effectors Yes-associated protein (YAP) and Transcriptional coactivator with PDZ-binding motif (TAZ), homologs of Drosophila Yorkie. However, whether AJs and Scrib act through the same or independent mechanisms to regulate Hippo pathway activity is not known. This study dissects how disruption of AJs or loss of basolateral components affect the activity of the Drosophila YAP homolog Yorkie (Yki) during imaginal disc development. Surprisingly, disruption of AJs and loss of basolateral proteins produced very different effects on Yki activity. Yki activity was cell-autonomously decreased but non-cell-autonomously elevated in tissues where the AJ components E-cadherin (E-cad) or α catenin (α-cat) were knocked down. In contrast, scrib knockdown caused a predominantly cell-autonomous activation of Yki. Moreover, disruption of AJs or basolateral proteins had different effects on cell polarity and tissue size. Simultaneous knockdown of α-cat and scrib induced both cell-autonomous and non-cell-autonomous Yki activity. In mammalian cells, knockdown of E-cad or α-cat caused nuclear accumulation and activation of YAP without overt effects on Scrib localization and vice versa. Therefore, these results indicate the existence of multiple, genetically separable inputs from AJs and cell polarity complexes into Yki/YAP regulation. (Yang, 2014).

    This report addresses the effects of AJs and basolateral cell polarity determinants on the activity of the Hippo pathway in Drosophila imaginal discs. Knockdown of AJs and basolateral components both induced ectopic activation of Yki. However, knockdown of AJs and basolateral proteins had strikingly different effects on Yki. Disruption of the basolateral module induced mainly a cell-autonomous increase in Yki activity, whereas knockdown of AJs caused non-autonomous induction of Yki reporters. Therefore, these data identify and genetically uncouple multiple different molecular pathways from AJs and the basolateral module that regulate Yki activity (Yang, 2014).

    These studies further show that knockdown of AJs induces cell-autonomous reduction of Yki activity and causes cell death and decreased size of Drosophila imaginal discs. Likewise, E-cad and :alpha;-cat mutant clones do not survive in imaginal discs. This effect may be mediated by LIM domain proteins of the Zyxin and Ajuba subfamilies, which regulate Hippo signaling by directly inhibiting Wts/Lats kinases and by interacting with Salvador (Sav), an adaptor protein that binds to the Hpo/MST kinases. A recent report shows that α-Cat recruits Ajuba and indirectly Wts to AJs and loss of Ajuba leads to activation of Wts and hence phosphorylation and inhibition of Yki and diminished tissue size. Thus, α-cat mutant cells may inactivate Yki because they lose Ajuba function (Yang, 2014).

    In contrast, in mammalian systems, several in vivo and in vitro studies have shown the opposite effect on Hippo signaling upon AJ disruption; knockdown of E-cad or α-cat caused an increase in cell proliferation and nuclear accumulation of YAP, and conditional knockout of α-cat in mouse skin cells caused tumor formation and elevated nuclear YAP staining. This suggests that AJ components have a tumor suppressor function in mammals. The observation that Scrib is mislocalized upon disruption of AJs in several different mammalian cell lines suggested that YAP activation could be due to the concomitant disruption of the basolateral module. However, the finding that acute disruption of AJs can cause YAP activation without disrupting Scrib localization and vice versa indicates that AJs and the basolateral module also act independently on the Hippo pathway in mammalian cells. In mammalian cells, α-Cat forms a complex with YAP and 14-3-3 proteins, thereby sequestering phosphorylated YAP at the plasma membrane. However, α-Cat may function as a tumor suppressor only in epidermal stem cells, as conditional deletion of α-cat in differentiated cells only caused a mild phenotype with no overgrowth and tumor formation. Therefore, it is possible that the negative regulation of YAP by α-Cat is cell type-specific, although further testing is required to fully address this issue (Yang, 2014).

    The non-cell-autonomous effect of AJ knockdown on the Hippo pathway is an intriguing phenomenon. Several groups reported non-autonomous effects on the Hippo pathway in Drosophila in other mutant conditions. Disrupting the expression gradients of the atypical Cadherin Dachsous or that of its regulator Four-jointed, clones of cells mutant for the tumor suppressor genes vps25 or hyperplastic discs (hyd) , clones of cells overexpressing Src64, or overexpression of the proapoptotic gene reaper or the JNK signaling ligand eiger all cause non-autonomous activation of Yki. This non-autonomous activation of Yki may be part of a regenerative response that stimulates cell proliferation in cells neighboring tissue defects. The signals that activate Yki in these situations are not known, nor is it known whether these mutant conditions activate the same or different signaling mechanisms. The non-autonomous activation of Yki around cells with AJ knockdown may be mediated by changes in mechanical forces. AJs are important for maintaining tension between cells across epithelia, and disruption of AJs leads to an imbalance of apical tension. Mechanical forces are known to regulate the Hippo pathway, and YAP/TAZ act as mediators of mechanical cues from the cellular microenvironment such as matrix stiffness. In particular, the Zyxin and Ajuba family LIM domain proteins can act as sensors of mechanical forces and may be involved in the non-autonomous activation of Yki. The effects on Hippo signaling of solely changing Zyxin and Ajuba may not be as strong as those described here, and these proteins may thus cooperate with other molecular conduits to regulate the activity of the Hippo pathway in response to changes in AJ strength. Unraveling these mechanisms will provide important new insights into understanding how cells interact with neighboring cells to regulate proliferation, apoptosis, and the Hippo pathway (Yang, 2014).

    It is currently unknown whether AJs also exert non-autonomous effects on the Hippo pathway in mammalian tissues. Amphiregulin, an EGF ligand, is a downstream target of YAP and can induce non-cell-autonomous cell proliferation through EGFR signaling. However, it is not known whether YAP itself is activated non-cell-autonomously to contribute to the hyper-proliferation phenotypes observed upon disruption of AJs in vivo and in vitro. It will be interesting to determine whether AJs and other cell-cell signaling mechanisms also have non-cell-autonomous effects on the activity of YAP in mammalian tissues, for example during regeneration (Yang, 2014).

    Finally, the apical proteins aPKC and Crb modulate the activity of the Hippo pathway, and many Hippo pathway components are apically localized, which is important for their activity. The data presented in this study add to these findings. Disruption of AJs causes reduced Yki activity, despite the fact that Crb and Mer are mislocalized. Thus, AJs and cell polarity components regulate Yki activity through multiple, genetically separable inputs. It will be interesting to decipher all of the different underlying molecular mechanisms of how AJs and basolateral proteins regulate the Hippo pathway and how these mechanisms evolved in Drosophila and in mammals (Yang, 2014).

    Localization of Hippo signalling complexes and Warts activation in vivo

    Hippo signalling controls organ growth and cell fate by regulating the activity of the kinase Warts. Multiple Hippo pathway components localize to apical junctions in epithelial cells, but the spatial and functional relationships among components have not been clarified, nor is it known where Warts activation occurs. This study reports that Hippo pathway components in Drosophila wing imaginal discs are organized into distinct junctional complexes, including separate distributions for Salvador, Expanded, Warts and Hippo. These complexes are reorganized on Hippo pathway activation, when Warts shifts from associating with its inhibitor Ajuba LIM protein (Jub) to its activator Expanded, and Hippo concentrates at Salvador sites. This study identify mechanisms promoting Warts relocalization, and using a phospho-specific antisera and genetic manipulations, where Warts activation occurs was identified: at apical junctions where Expanded, Salvador, Hippo and Warts overlap. These observations define spatial relationships among Hippo signalling components and establish the functional importance of their localization to Warts activation (Sun, 2015).

    Wts is a key control point within the Hippo pathway, where multiple upstream regulatory processes converge. A fundamental gap in understanding of Hippo signal transduction has been the cellular location of Wts activation. This study established that Wts activation in wing disc epithelial cells occurs at sub-apical junctions where Hpo, Sav, Ex and Wts overlap. Co-recruitment of Hpo and Wts kinases to a common scaffold is implicated as a central feature of Hippo pathway activation, and this helps to explain why genes required for apical junctions and apical-basal polarity promote Hippo signalling and can act as tumour suppressors (Sun, 2015).

    These studies indicate that a key step in Wts activation in disc epithelia is its relocalization from Jub to Ex. No special mechanism is needed to transport Wts from Jub to Ex, as Wts localization could simply be governed by equilibrium binding with a limited cytoplasmic pool. That is, if Wts normally binds relatively strongly to Jub, and relatively weakly to Ex, it could, depending on its concentration, accumulate at Jub sites but not at Ex sites. Expression of activated Yki induced a robust relocalization of Wts from Jub to Ex, and these studies identify three factors that contribute to the visible accumulation of Wts at Ex sites under these conditions. First, Yki activation appears to increase Hpo activity. It was also found that hpo RNAi suppresses the relocalization of Wts from Jub to Ex, and that increased Hpo activity promotes Ex-Wts binding, as assayed by co-immunoprecipitation experiments. These observations are consistent with the hypothesis that Wts shifts from Jub sites towards Ex sites due to an increased Ex-Wts binding affinity induced by Hpo. Second, Yki activation increases levels of Ex, which under equilibrium binding would also increase the recruitment of Wts to Ex sites. The relocalization of Wts back to adherens junctions in the absence of Ex indicates that the shift in Wts localization is Ex dependent, and implies that Jub and Ex can compete for association with Wts. A third factor that contributes to detection of Wts-Ex co-localization is the increase in Wts protein levels induced by activated Yki, which could lead to Wts concentrations high enough to bind even lower-affinity Ex sites, and indeed it was observed that simply overexpressing Wts was sufficient to induce Wts-Ex overlap, without removing Wts from adherens junctions where it co-localizes with Jub. It is suggested that an additional consequence of increased Wts levels that enables detection of Wts and pWts overlapping Ex could be a saturation of pWts removal. While at present this remains speculative, all signal transduction pathways require mechanisms to turn off after they have been activated, so there should exist mechanisms that either degrade or dephosphorylate pWts. Relatively low levels of pWts due to rapid turnover could also help explain why pWts was undetectable in wild-type wing discs (Sun, 2015).

    The discovery of Ex-Wts binding, together with earlier studies that identified Ex-Hpo binding, implicate Ex as a scaffold that could promote Wts activation by co-localizing it with Hpo, and thus define a role for Ex distinct from previous suggestions that it functions as an activator of Hpo. Similarly, recent studies in cultured cell models showed that activated forms of Mer could bind Wts, and suggested a model in which Mer promotes Wts activation by recruiting it to membranes where it could be activated by Hpo. This suggests that in tissues where Mer, rather than Ex, plays key roles in Wts activation, such as glia, Mer, which can also associate with Hpo, through Sav, could play an analogous role in assembling a Wts activation complex. It is thus noteworthy that the best characterized upstream branches of Hippo signalling characterized in Drosophila (Fat, Ex and Mer) can all now be said to act principally at the levels of Wts regulation rather than Hpo regulation. Moreover, it is noted that Kibra, which has been suggested to act at a similar point in the Hippo pathway as Mer and Ex, has also been reported to be able to physically interact with both Hpo and Wts, and thus might also act principally as a scaffold that links them together rather than as a promoter of Hpo activation (Sun, 2015).

    Indeed, external signals that impinge directly on Hpo activity have not yet been identified. The current discovery that Hpo localization to Sav is greatly increased by Yki activation reveals that regulators of Hpo localization exist, and implies that they are subject to negative feedback regulation downstream of Yki. As Hpo kinase activity can be promoted by Hpo dimerization, it is proposed that the increased recruitment of Hpo to Sav could elevate Hpo activity by increasing its local concentration, and thereby its dimerization. Relocalization of Hpo might also affect its interactions with kinases that can modulate Hpo activity. Recruitment of Hpo to Sav also concentrates Hpo near Ex, where it would more efficiently phosphorylate Ex-bound Wts. However, since most junctional Wts in disc epithelia is normally complexed with Jub rather than Ex, a mechanism-based solely on Hpo recruitment to apical junctions would not be expected to induce robust Wts activation. Importantly, then, these studies revealed that Hpo can increase Ex-Wts binding, possibly by phosphorylating Ex. Increased Ex-Wts binding would help recruit Wts to Ex, where it could then be phosphorylated by Hpo. Thus, it is now possible to suggest a sequential model for Hippo pathway activation in which Hpo is first recruited to membranes and activated, activated Hpo then phosphorylates Ex to recruit Wts and finally Hpo phosphorylates and activates Wts complexed with Ex. While further studies will be required to validate this model, it provides a framework that could guide future investigations, and these current studies clearly emphasize the importance of determining the in vivo localization of endogenous pathway components (Sun, 2015).

    Impaired Hippo signaling promotes Rho1-JNK-dependent growth

    The Hippo and c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) pathway both regulate growth and contribute to tumorigenesis when dysregulated. Whereas the Hippo pathway acts via the transcription coactivator Yki/YAP to regulate target gene expression, JNK signaling, triggered by various modulators including Rho GTPases, activates the transcription factors Jun and Fos. This study shows that impaired Hippo signaling induces JNK activation through Rho1. Blocking Rho1-JNK signaling suppressed Yki-induced overgrowth in the wing disk, whereas ectopic Rho1 expression promoted tissue growth when apoptosis was prohibited. Furthermore, Yki directly regulates Rho1 transcription via the transcription factor Sd. These results identify a novel molecular link between the Hippo and JNK pathways and implicate the essential role of the JNK pathway in Hippo signaling-related tumorigenesis (Ma, 2005).

    Recent studies have revealed a complex interaction network between Hippo and other key signaling pathways, including TGF- β /SMAD and Wnt/β-catenin pathways, whereas its communication with JNK signaling remains elusive. This study provides genetic evidences that impaired Hippo signaling promotes overgrowth through Rho1-JNK signaling in Drosophila. First, loss of Hippo signaling induces JNK activation and its target gene expression. Second, Yki-induced overgrowth is suppressed by blocking Rho1-JNK signaling. Third, ectopic Rho1 expression phenocopies Yki-triggered overgrowth and proliferation when cell death is compromised (Ma, 2005).

    Yki/YAP's ability in promoting tissue growth depends on transcription factors, including Sd/TEADs and SMADs. Consistent with this notion, this study found Sd, but not Mad, is essential for Yki-induced JNK activation, whereas ectopic Sd expression is sufficient to activate JNK signaling by itself. The Rho1 GTPase was further implicated as the critical factor that bridges the interaction between Hippo and JNK signaling. Rho1 not only mediates Yki-induced JNK activation and overgrowth, but also serves as a direct transcriptional target of Yki/Sd complex. Intriguingly, Rho1 activation was also found to promote nuclear translocation of Yki in wing discs, and reducing Yki activity significantly impeded Rho1 induced growth, implying the existence of a potential positive feedback loop to amplify Yki-induced overgrowth and to help maintain signaling in a steady state. Consistent with thi observation, recent studies reported that GPCRs could activate YAP/TAZ through RhoA in mammals, whereas elevated JNK signaling in Drosophila could stimulate Yki nuclear translocation during regeneration and tissue growth. Thus, these results provide the other side of the story about a novel cross-talk between Hippo and JNK signaling (Ma, 2005).

    Intriguingly, it was found that ectopic Yki expression driven by ptc-Gal4 induced MMP1 activation, puc-LacZ expression, rho1 transcription, and Yki target gene transcription predominantly in the proximal region of wing disk, but not that of the dorsal/ventral boundary. This is consistent with a recently published paper showing that tension in the center region of Drosophila wing disk is lower than that in the periphery, which correlates with lower Yki activity. It is also worth noting that despite the requirement of JNK signaling in Yki-induced wing overgrowth, JNK was not activated strictly in an autonomous manner upon Yki overexpression. This could be caused by supercompetitive activity of Yki expression clones, or, alternatively, through a propagation of JNK signal into neighboring cells, which would be very interesting to study further (Ma, 2005).

    Apart from its role in growth control, the Hippo pathway also regulates tumor invasion and metastasis. Similarly, JNK signaling plays a major role in modulating metastasis in both flies and mammals. Rho1 was also reported to cooperate with oncogenic Ras to induce large invasive tumors. Hence, it is likely that Rho1 also acts as the molecular link between Yki and JNK signaling in modulating metastasis as well (Ma, 2005).

    Cabut/dTIEG associates with the transcription factor Yorkie for growth control

    The Drosophila transcription factor Cabut/dTIEG (Cbt) is a growth regulator, whose expression is modulated by different stimuli. This study determined Cbt association with chromatin and identified Yorkie (Yki), the transcriptional co-activator of the Hippo (Hpo) pathway as its partner. Cbt and yki co-localize on common gene promoters, and the expression of target genes varies according to changes in Cbt levels. Down-regulation of Cbt suppresses the overgrowth phenotypes caused by mutations in expanded (ex) and yki over-expression, whereas its up-regulation promotes cell proliferation. These results imply that Cbt is a novel partner of yki that is required as a transcriptional co-activator in growth control (Ruiz-Romero, 2015).

    Gene expression is regulated through the integrated action of, among others, many cis-regulatory elements, including core promoters and enhancers located at greater distances from transcription start sites (TSS). The combinatorial binding of transcription factors (TF) to these elements can lead to diverse types of transcriptional output, and an understanding of this mechanism is crucial, for example, in the context of development. In fact, the final size and shape of an organism require a complex genetic network of signaling molecules, the final outcome of which must be finely regulated in space and time to ensure a proper response (Ruiz-Romero, 2015).

    The transcription factor Cabut/dTIEG (Cbt) is the fly ortholog of TGF-β-inducible early genes 1 and 2 (TIEG1 and TIEG2) in mammals, which belong to the evolutionary conserved TIEG family. TIEGs are zinc finger proteins of the Kr├╝ppel-like factor (KLF) family that can function as either activators or repressors depending on the cellular context, the promoter to which they bind or the interacting partners. TIEG proteins participate in a wide variety of cellular processes, from development to cancer, and regulate genes that control proliferation, apoptosis, regeneration or differentiation (Ruiz-Romero, 2015).

    Drosophila cbt was identified and characterized from an overexpression screen of EP lines conducted to determine genes involved in establishing epithelial planar cell polarity. This TF is ubiquitously expressed in the wing disk, and its expression increases in response to metabolic, hormonal and stress signals. Cbt levels rise upon inhibition of TOR signaling, and it is among the most highly Mlx-regulated genes. Among its functions, it is known that Cbt is required during dorsal closure downstream of JNK signaling, that it is a modulator of different signaling pathways involved in wing patterning and proliferation and that it promotes ectopic cell cycling when overexpressed. Moreover, Cbt is a crucial downstream mediator gene of the JNK signaling required during wing disk regeneration. In spite of this, little is known about its downstream target genes or its precise mechanism of action. This study reports a novel function for Cbt as a partner of yki (Yorkie). yki is the key effector of growth control and the downstream element of the highly conserved Hpo (Hippo) signaling pathway. The Hpo pathway limits organ size by phosphorylating and inhibiting Yki, a key regulator of proliferation and apoptosis. yki can also act as an oncogene, since it has potent growth-promoting activity. The results show a role for Cbt as a transcriptional activator with the capacity to modulate yki growth response (Ruiz-Romero, 2015).

    To characterize Cbt target genes, chromatin immunoprecipitation and high-throughput sequencing (ChIP-Seq) were performed from third instar larval wing imaginal disks. Analysis of Cbt-bound regions in the entire genome revealed that approximately 70% of its peaks were located in proximal promoters or introns, consistent with its role as a transcriptional regulator. Thus, 2,060 putative target genes were identified in the wing disk. Gene Ontology (GO) analysis indicated that this subset of genes was enriched in transcriptional activity, cell migration, mitotic cell cycle and signaling pathways known to play a role in imaginal disk development. As expected, among Cbt targets previously described genes were found such as salm (spalt major) or cbt itself, but also several unidentified target genes such as wg (wingless) or vg (vestigial) (Ruiz-Romero, 2015).

    Cbt association around the TSS may be an indication of its function as a primary regulatory element, but does not provide any information about its role as an activator or a repressor. To elucidate this question, published data on chromatin modifications as well as recently obtained RNA-Seq data from the wing disk were examined and Cbt targets were ranked according to their expression level. Although at different levels, target genes are mostly expressed in the wing disk. This positive correlation with gene expression was also detected in the extensive overlap between Cbt occupancy and trimethylated histone 3 lysine 4 (H3K4me3). In contrast, only 13% of Cbt target genes correlated with the repressive chromatin mark H3K27me3. Although 200 Cbt targets seemed to present both modifications, these may be coupled to the differential expression pattern of several genes in the wing disk (Ruiz-Romero, 2015).

    To clarify whether Cbt binds to active or inactive genes, Cbt occupancy was examined of genes known to be differentially expressed in a subpopulation of cells within the wing disk tissue. The gene nub (nubbin) is expressed in the wing primordium. GFP expression in the wing pouch was examined using a nub-GAL4 driver and ChIP assays followed by quantitative PCR (qPCR) were performed in sorted cells. In the vicinity of the TSS of genes expressed in the wing pouch, such as rn (rotund) and nub, Cbt was only found in GFP-positive cells. Cbt was also present in the promoter of cycA (cyclin A), both in GFP-positive and GFP-negative cells, in accordance with its expression throughout the entire wing disk (wing pouch and notum). These observations indicate that Cbt might act as a positive activator of transcription in this tissue. To further confirm this, the expression of selected targets was examined after cbt overexpression. Induction of cbt in the dorsal domain of the wing using an ap-GAL4 (apterous) driver led to a clear increase in the expression levels of target genes, as detected by qPCR. cbt was also ectopically expressed in the ptc (patched) domain of the wing disk using the ptc-GAL4 driver, and the pattern of Wg (normally restricted to cells adjacent to the D/V boundary in the wing blade and to two rings in the hinge region) and Vg (expressed throughout the wing blade) was examined by immunostaining. After cbt induction, spread staining of Wg was observed in the boundary and ring regions. Likewise, analysis of Vg revealed increased protein levels in the region where cbt was upregulated. No ectopic expression of Wg or Vg was detected in regions far from where they are normally expressed, suggesting that cbt alone is not sufficient to ectopically activate transcription of these genes but can modulate or cooperate with factors that promote their basal expression. Taken together, these results suggest that Cbt functions as a transcriptional activator in the wing disk. Nevertheless, its contribution to repression in some contexts or through binding to different partners cannot be disregarded, as previous experiments have demonstrated the relevance of the Sin3A interaction domain for Cbt's repressive role (Ruiz-Romero, 2015).

    TIEG factors contain three conserved C-terminal zinc finger motifs that seem to bind to GC-rich sequences in vertebrates. To characterize the set of motifs enriched within Cbt binding sites, different pattern discovery methods were used. Among others, GC sequences and the Sp1 motif, were detected as expected for a TIEG family member, but in addition, one of the most enriched motifs comprised GAGA-binding sequences. No enrichment of the proposed consensus TIEG motif 5'GGTGTG3' was found, which suggests that Cbt binds to degenerated or alternative motifs or may function through its interaction with other TFs. A recent study identified a novel Mad-like motif in promoters of Cbt-regulated genes. However, this new motif does not coincide with previously reported Cbt binding data (Ruiz-Romero, 2015).

    Many studies have emphasized the complexity of yki and its mammalian homologs YAP and TAZ regulation, including multiple combinations with associate proteins in distinct target genes. Besides DNA-binding partners such Sd (Scalloped) and Hth (Homothorax) in Drosophila, yki can cooperate with other factors directly on target promoters, such as the cell cycle-related gene dE2F1. Remarkably, a recent report shows that Cbt and dE2F1 regulate an overlapping set of cell cycle genes. In the Dpp pathway, Mad (Mothers against decapentaplegic) and yki interact to form a transcription complex to activate their common targets. This association is conserved through evolution, as YAP and TAZ interact with Smad proteins to potentiate transcriptional activity. Recent studies have also identified Mask (Multiple ankyrin repeats single KH domain) as a novel cofactor for Yki/YAP, required to induce target gene expression. The results highlight the role of Cbt as a new yki partner involved in the activation of some yki target gene expression. This function of Cbt may occur in part through association with GAF as well as chromatin remodeler complexes (Ruiz-Romero, 2015)

    Since overexpression of cbt results in an increase in proliferation as well as wing size, it was hypothesized that Cbt's role in size control could be mediated through its association with Yki. To address this question, cbt levels were depleted, and the effect on the growth of ex mutant clones and in clones overexpressing yki in wing and eye-antenna imaginal disks was examined. The yki target gene ex acts as an upstream positive modulator of the Hpo pathway, and in accordance with its role as a tumor suppressor, its loss-of-function mutation results in large clones. Expression of cbt RNAi in this mutant background caused a clear reduction in the clone size. In the same direction, the overgrowth known to occur by overexpression of a yki-activated form is prevented in a mutant cbt background as well as expressing cbt RNAi. Moreover, impaired growth caused by yki depletion could not be rescued increasing cbt levels and overexpression of yki and cbt triggered massive growth in imaginal tissues. Finally, depletion of cbt in adult organs (wings and eyes) also reduced Yki-mediated overgrowth, indicating a general function for Cbt in the regulation of Hippo pathway-mediated tissue growth (Ruiz-Romero, 2015).

    In addition to its role during development, it has been shown that Cbt expression is highly regulated by stress and metabolic conditions. Cbt has also been identified as a JNK-inducible gene during dorsal closure, and this study has shown that JNK and tissue damage trigger cbt transient overexpression to promote wing disk regeneration, indicating that its levels must be finely controlled during regenerative growth. Moreover, cbt heterozygous mutant disks fail to proliferate and do not regenerate, and it is known that during regeneration, the JNK pathway triggers yki translocation to the nucleus to promote the proliferative response. Altogether, these data support a model for Cbt acting as a modulator of yki activity in the transcriptional regulatory mechanisms that control tissue growth (Ruiz-Romero, 2015).

    Critical role for Fat/Hippo and IIS/Akt pathways downstream of Ultrabithorax during haltere specification in Drosophila

    In Drosophila, differential development of wing and haltere, which differ in cell size, number and morphology, is dependent on the function of Hox gene Ultrabithorax (Ubx). This paper reports studies on Ubx-mediated regulation of the Fat/Hippo and IIS/dAkt pathways, which control cell number and cell size during development. Over-expression of Yki or down regulation of negative components of the Fat/Hippo pathway, such as expanded, caused considerable increase in haltere size, mainly due to increase in cell number. These phenotypes were also associated with the activation of Akt pathways in developing haltere. Although activation of Akt alone did not affect the cell size or the organ size, dramatic increase was observed in haltere size when Akt was activated in the background where expanded is down regulated. This was associated with the increase in both cell size and cell number. The organ appeared flatter than wildtype haltere and the trichome morphology and spacing resembled that of wing suggesting homeotic transformations. Thus, these results suggest a link between cellular growth and pattern formation and the final differentiated state of the organ (Singh, 2015).

    Wing and haltere are the dorsal appendages of second and third thoracic segments, respectively, of adult Drosophila. They are homologous structures, although differ greatly in their morphology. The homeotic gene Ultrabithorax (Ubx), which is required and sufficient to confer haltere fate to epithelial cells, is known to regulate many wing patterning genes to specify haltere, but the mechanism is still poorly understood (Singh, 2015).

    There are a number of differences between wing and haltere at the cellular and organ levels. Wing is a large, flat and thin structure, while haltere is a small globular structure, although both are made up of 2-layered sheet of epithelial cells. Space between the two layers of cells in haltere is filled with haemocytes. Cuticle area of each wing cell is 8 fold more than a haltere cell. Haltere has smaller and fewer cells than the wing. Trichomes of wing cells are long and thin, while haltere trichomes are short and stout in morphology. The ratio of anterior to posterior compartment size in the haltere (~2.5:1) is much different from that in the wing (~1.2:1). Haltere also lacks wing-type vein and sensory bristles. Haltere cells are more cuboidal compared to flatter wing cells (Roch, 2000). Thus, cell number, size and shape all add to the differences in the size and shape of the two organs (Singh, 2015).

    However, cells of the third instar larval wing and haltere discs are similar in size and shape. The difference between cell size and shape becomes evident at late pupal stages. Wing cells become much larger, compared to haltere cells. At pupal stages, they also exhibit differences in the organization of actin cytoskeleton elements viz. F-actin levels are much higher in haltere cells compared to wing cells (Singh, 2015).

    In the context of final shape of wings and halteres, one needs to understand the mechanism by which Ubx influences cell size, shape and arrangement. It is possible that Ubx regulates overall shape of the haltere by regulating either cell size and/or shape. The current understanding of mechanisms by which wing and haltere differ at cellular, tissue and organ level is ambiguous (Sanchez-Herrero, 2013). For example, while removal of Ubx from the entire haltere, or at least from one entire compartment, leads to haltere to wing transformation with increased growth of Ubx minus tissues, mitotic clones of Ubx (using the null allele Ubx6.28) show similar sized twin spot in small clones. Only when very large clones of Ubx6.28Ubx6.28 are generated, one can see increased growth compared to their twin spots. This suggests that unless a certain threshold level of growth factors is de-repressed, the haltere does not show any overgrowth phenotype (Singh, 2015).

    There have been several efforts to identify functional and molecular mechanisms by which Ubx regulates genes/pathways to provide haltere its distinct morphology. Various approaches have been used to identify targets of Ubx that are expected to differentially express between wing and haltere, e.g., loss-of-function genetics, deficiency screens, enhancer-trap screening and genome wide approaches such as microarray analysis and chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP). Targets include genes involved in diverse cellular functions like components of the cuticle and extracellular matrix, genes involved in cell specification, cell proliferation, cell survival, cell adhesion, or cell differentiation, structural components of actin and microtubule filaments, and accessory proteins controlling filament dynamics (reviewed in Sanchez-Herrero, 2013; Singh, 2015).

    Decapentaplegic (Dpp), Wingless (Wg), and Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) are some of the major growth and pattern regulating pathways that are repressed by Ubx in the haltere. However, over-expression of Dpp, Wg, Vestigial (Vg) or Vein (Vn) provides only marginal growth advantage to haltere compared to the wildtype. In this context, additional growth regulating pathways amongst the targets of Ubx were examined. Genome wide studies have identified many components of Fat/Hippo and Insulin-insulin like/dAkt signalling (IIS/dAkt) pathways as potential targets of Ubx. The Fat/Hippo pathway is a crucial determinant of organ size in both Drosophila and mammals. It regulates cell proliferation, cell death, and cell fate decisions and coordinates these events to specify organ size. In contrast, the IIS/dAkt pathway is known to regulate cell size (Singh, 2015).

    Recent studies have revealed that the Fat/Hippo pathway networks with other signalling pathways. For example, during wing development, Fat/Hippo pathway activities are dependent on Four-jointed (Fj) and Dachous (Ds) gradients, which are influenced by Dpp, Notch, Wg and Vg. Glypicans, which play a prominent role in morphogen signalling, are regulated by Fat/Hippo signalling (Baena-Lopez, 2008). EGFR activates Yorkie (Yki; effector of Fat/Hippo pathway) through its EGFR-RAS-MAPK signalling by promoting the phosphorylation of Ajuba family protein WTIP (Reddy, 2013). However, EGFR negatively regulates events downstream of Yki. The Fat/Hippo pathway is also known to inhibit EGFR signalling, which makes the interaction between the two pathways very complex and context-dependent. IIS/dAkt pathway is also known to activate Yki signalling and vice-versa. Thus, Fat/Hippo pathway may specify organ size by regulating both cell number (directly) and cell size (via regulating IIS/dAkt pathway) (Singh, 2015).

    This study reports studies on the functional implication of regulation of Fat/Hippo and IIS/dAkt pathways by Ubx in specifying haltere development. Over-expression of Yki or down regulation of negative components of the Fat/Hippo pathway, such as expanded (ex), induced considerable increase in haltere size, mainly due to increase in cell number. Although activation of dAkt alone did not affect the organ size or the cell size, activation of Yki or down regulation of ex in the background of over-expressed dAkt caused dramatic increase in haltere size, much severe than Yki or ex alone. In this background, increase was observed in both cell size and cell number. The resulted haltere appeared flatter than wildtype haltere and the morphology of trichomes and their spacing resembled that of wing suggesting homeotic transformations. Thus, these results suggest a link between cellular growth and pattern formation and the final differentiated state of the organ (Singh, 2015).

    The findings suggest that, downstream of Ubx, the Fat/Hippo pathway is critical for haltere specification. It is required for Ubx-mediated specification of organ size, sensory bristle repression, trichome morphology and arrangement. The Fat/Hippo pathway cooperates with the IIS/dAkt pathway, which is also a target of Ubx, in specifying cell size and compartment size in developing haltere. The fact that over-expression of Yki or downregulation of ex show haltere-to-wing transformations at the levels of organ size and shape, and trichome morphology and arrangement, suggest that regulation of the Fat/Hippo pathway by Ubx is central to the modification of wing identity to that of the haltere (Singh, 2015).

    The observations made in this study pose new questions and suggest various interesting possibilities to study the Fat/Hippo pathway with a new perspective.

    (1) It was observed that while Yki is nuclear in haltere discs, it appears to be non-functional. Yki is a transcriptional co-activator protein, which requires other DNA-binding partners for its activity. In this context, understanding the precise relationship between Yki and Ubx may provide an insight into mechanism of haltere specification (Singh, 2015).

    (2) The Fat/Hippo pathway (along with the IIS/dAkt pathway) may be involved in the specification of cell size, trichome morphology and their arrangement, all of which are important parameters in determining organ morphology. Recent studies indicate that the Fat/Hippo pathway regulates cellular architecture and the mechanical properties of cells in response to the environment. It would be interesting to study the role of the Fat/Hippo pathway in regulating the cytoskeleton of epithelial cells during development. Haltere cells at pupal stages exhibit higher levels of F-actin than wing cells. One possible mechanism that is currently being investigated is lowering of F-actin levels in transformed haltere cells due to over-expression of Yki or down regulation of ex. This may cause flattening of cells during morphogenesis leading to larger organ size (Singh, 2015).

    (3) Reversing cell size and number was sufficient to induce homeotic transformations at the level of haltere morphology. This suggests the importance of negative regulation of genetic mechanisms that determine cell size and number, in specifying an organ size and shape. As a corollary, Ubx-mediated regulation of Fat/Hippo and IIS/dAkt pathways provides an opportunity to study cooperative repression of cell number and cell size during organ specification (Singh, 2015).

    (4) Certain genetic backgrounds investigated in this study showed severe effect on cell proliferation in haltere discs than in wing discs. This could be due to the fact that, the wing disc has already attained a specific size by the third instar larval stage (the developmental stage examined in this study), which is controlled by several pathways. Any change to this size may need more drastic alteration to the controlling mechanisms. As Ubx specifies haltere by modulating various wing-patterning events, there may still exist a certain degree of plasticity in mechanisms that determine the size of the haltere. However, in absolute terms, the haltere is also resistant to changes in growth control due to regulation by Ubx at multiple levels. Thus, differential development of wing and haltere provides a very good assay system to study not only growth control, but also to dissect out function of important growth regulators (tumour suppressor pathways) such as the Fat/Hippo pathway using various genome-wide approaches (Singh, 2015).

    Zyxin antagonizes the FERM protein Expanded to couple F-actin and Yorkie-dependent organ growth

    Coordinated multicellular growth during development is achieved by the sensing of spatial and nutritional boundaries. The conserved Hippo (Hpo) signaling pathway has been proposed to restrict tissue growth by perceiving mechanical constraints through actin cytoskeleton networks. The actin-associated LIM proteins Zyxin (Zyx) and Ajuba (Jub) have been linked to the control of tissue growth via regulation of Hpo signaling, but the study of Zyx has been hampered by a lack of genetic tools. A zyx mutant was generated in Drosophila using TALEN endonucleases, and this was used to show that Zyx antagonizes the FERM-domain protein Expanded (Ex) to control tissue growth, eye differentiation, and F-actin accumulation. Zyx membrane targeting promotes the interaction between the transcriptional co-activator Yorkie (Yki) and the transcription factor Scalloped (Sd), leading to activation of Yki target gene expression and promoting tissue growth. Finally, this study shows that Zyx's growth-promoting function is dependent on its interaction with the actin-associated protein Enabled (Ena) via a conserved LPPPP motif and is antagonized by Capping Protein (CP). These results show that Zyx is a functional antagonist of Ex in growth control and establish a link between actin filament polymerization and Yki activity (Gaspar, 2015).

    The control of tissue size represents a major unsolved question in developmental biology. The conserved Hippo (Hpo) signaling pathway is thought to sense mechanical and nutritional cues to restrict tissue growth. Activation of the Ste20-like kinase Hpo (MST1/2 in mammals) and subsequent phosphorylation of the downstream Ndr-like kinase Warts (Wts-LATS1/2 in mammals) inhibits the transcriptional co-activator Yorkie (Yki-YAP/TAZ in mammals), via phosphorylation at S168. This prevents the interaction of Yki with transcription factor partners, such as Scalloped (Sd-TEAD1-4 in mammals), thereby inhibiting expression of pro-growth and survival genes (Gaspar, 2015).

    The known upstream stimuli for Hpo signaling involve a number of regulatory proteins, many of which are associated with the actin cytoskeleton. In particular, the Drosophila proteins Expanded (Ex) and Merlin (Mer), which belong to the FERM (Four point one, Ezrin, Radixin, Moesin) domain family, and the protocadherins Fat (Ft) and Dachsous (Ds), were identified as tumor suppressors that prevent expression of Yki target genes. Whether Ex/Mer and Ft/Ds signaling represent entirely distinct branches of Hpo signaling remains unclear. For instance, Ft depletion leads to a reduction in apical Ex localization. However, Ft and Ex have been implicated in distinct functions: Ft/Ds are involved in the control of planar cell polarity (PCP), while Ex has strong effects on eye differentiation. The proposed mechanisms of Ft and Ex function are also distinct. In particular, Ex promotes cytoplasmic sequestration of Yki through direct binding and by promoting Hpo-Wts kinase activity, while Ft antagonizes the growth-promoting function of the atypical myosin Dachs (D), which, in turn, destabilizes Wts (Gaspar, 2015).

    Several reports have highlighted the contribution of the actin cytoskeleton to Hpo signaling. The actin Capping Protein αβ heterodimer (CP), which prevents addition of actin monomers to F-actin barbed ends, antagonizes Yki activity, and thereby restricts tissue growth. Accordingly, in mammals, CapZ and other factors that restrict F-actin levels, have growth-restrictive effects via the control of YAP/TAZ subcellular localization, particularly in response to mechanical cues. Interestingly, YAP and TAZ respond to mechanical cues dependent on actomyosin networks and formin-dependent actin polymerization. Recently, the actin-associated LIM (Lin11, Isl-1, and Mec-3) domain protein Zyxin (Zyx) has been shown to mediate the effects of Ft-Ds signaling on Yki target genes, by promoting Wts destabilization via its interaction with D (Rauskolb, 2011). Importantly, Zyx provides a link to the actin polymerization machinery, since it directly interacts with the actin-binding proteins Enabled (Ena)/VASP via conserved F/LPPPP motifs, and promotes Ena function in barbed-end F-actin polymerization (Gaspar, 2015 and references therein).

    The analysis of Drosophila zyx has been limited by the absence of a mutant. This study generated a zyx mutation and describe its effects on growth and Hpo signaling. Zyx is shown to strongly antagonize Ex function in growth control, eye differentiation and F-actin accumulation, while being largely dispensable for Ft-mediated tissue growth. Finally, this work suggests that Zyx's growth-promoting function requires its ability to bind the actin polymerization factor Ena (Gaspar, 2015).

    Zyx was previously shown to promote Wts degradation in a mechanism based on a Zyx/Dachs interaction (Rauskolb, 2011). However, this study reports that zyx and dachs (d) have additive effects on tissue growth. In addition, zyx loss has a modest effect on ft growth phenotypes, which, in contrast, are highly sensitive to d mutations, highlighting the possibility of additional functions for Zyx in tissue growth (Gaspar, 2015).

    Characterization of the zyx mutant shows that Zyx acts in the Ex branch of the Hpo pathway to control tissue growth. This is in contrast to a previous study using RNAi knockdown of zyx and ex, which concluded that zyx expression had only minor effects on the Ex branch (Rauskolb, 2011). The current results indicate that zyx loss can significantly reverse the lethality and growth defects of ex mutant animals. This antagonistic function of Ex and Zyx is not confined to growth regulation but extends to tissue differentiation. This study shows that Zyx restricts eye differentiation antagonistically to Ex and in parallel to Dachs but independently of Ft. Consistent with these observations, simultaneous loss of ex and ft leads to additive, and therefore apparently independent effects on eye differentiation. Therefore, it is proposed that Zyx is a key modulator of Ex function (Gaspar, 2015).

    In growth control, Zyx function may be partially independent of Hpo-Wts signaling, as zyx is partially required for the overgrowth of hpo and wts mutant eye and wing but has no major effect on wts overexpression in the wing or Yki phosphorylation by Wts. Ex has been reported to sequester Yki in the cytoplasm through a direct interaction. However, since ex mutant overgrowth is suppressed by zyx loss, it is unlikely that Zyx directly antagonizes Ex protein. Instead, it is suggested that the interplay between Zyx and Ex in growth control is mediated through their antagonistic effects on F-actin (Gaspar, 2015).

    This work links F-actin barbed-end polymerization with Zyx/Ex in the control of Yki activity and tissue growth. The Zyx domain encompassing the conserved LPPPP motif, which binds Ena, is required for Zyx to promote growth and to antagonize Ex function. Moreover, Zyx and Ena synergize to promote tissue growth. This supports the idea that Zyx promotes tissue growth via its interaction with Ena. Conversely, CP antagonizes Zyx-induced tissue growth and functions together with Ex in preventing F-actin polymerization. Therefore, an attractive possibility is that antagonistic effects on Yki activity between the activators Zyx/Ena on one hand and the inhibitors Ex and CP on the other hand is played out indirectly through their effects on F-actin polymerization. Consistent with this hypothesis, Zyx antagonizes the effect of Ex on apical F-actin accumulation (Gaspar, 2015).

    Recent data suggest that the actin cytoskeleton acts in parallel to the core kinase cascade to control YAP/TAZ activity, with CapZ being proposed as one of the 'gatekeepers' restricting its nuclear translocation. Yki/YAP/TAZ may respond to the relative activities of Ena and CP, either by being sensitive to the presence of polymerizing actin barbed ends, or because Ena produces a specialized set of cortical actin filaments necessary for Yki/YAP/TAZ activation. The study of the mechanism(s) coupling F-actin and Yki/YAP/TAZ should resolve these issues. This study has shown that Zyx cortical localization is relevant for its function in promoting tissue growth. Since Zyx has been shown to rapidly relocalize to strained or severed actin filaments in cultured mammalian cells and Drosophila follicular epithelial cells, it is possible that Zyx may also link mechanical forces to growth control (Gaspar, 2015).

    Finally, it is also interesting to note the possible redundancy in growth control between Zyx and other Ena-interacting proteins. Like Zyx, Pico/Lamellipodin contains an EVH1-interacting L/FPPPP motif, and its interaction with Ena promotes tissue growth in Drosophila. Since Ena localization is not strictly dependent on Zyx, it is tempting to speculate that Ena recruitment by multiple membrane-associated proteins, such as Zyx and Pico, is a common denominator in the regulation of growth by the actin cytoskeleton (Gaspar, 2015).

    Crosstalk between mitochondrial fusion and the Hippo pathway in controlling cell proliferation during Drosophila development

    Cell proliferation and tissue growth depend on the coordinated regulation of multiple signaling molecules and pathways during animal development. Previous studies have linked mitochondrial function and the Hippo signaling pathway in growth control. However, the underlying molecular mechanisms are not fully understood. This study identifies a Drosophila mitochondrial inner membrane protein ChChd3 as a novel regulator for tissue growth during larval development. Loss of ChChd3 leads to tissue undergrowth and cell proliferation defects. ChChd3 is required for mitochondrial fusion and removal of ChChd3 increases mitochondrial fragmentation. ChChd3 is another mitochondrial target of the Hippo pathway, although it is only partially required for Hippo pathway mediated overgrowth. Interestingly, lacking of ChChd3 leads to inactivation of Hippo activity under normal development, which is also dependent on the transcriptional co-activator Yorkie (Yki). Furthermore, loss of ChChd3 induces oxidative stress and activates the JNK pathway. In addition, depletion of other mitochondrial fusion components, Opa1 or Marf, inactivates the Hippo pathway as well. Taken together, the study proposes that there is a crosstalk between mitochondrial fusion and the Hippo pathway which is essential in controlling cell proliferation and tissue homeostasis in Drosophila (Deng, 2016).

    The Hippo pathway targets Rae1 to regulate mitosis and organ size and to feed back to regulate upstream components Merlin, Hippo, and Warts

    Hippo signaling acts as a master regulatory pathway controlling growth, proliferation, and apoptosis and also ensures that variations in proliferation do not alter organ size. How the pathway coordinates restricting proliferation with organ size control remains a major unanswered question. This study identifies Rae1 as a highly-conserved target of the Hippo Pathway integrating proliferation and organ size. Genetic and biochemical studies in Drosophila cells and tissues and in mammalian cells indicate that Hippo signaling promotes Rae1 degradation downstream of Warts/Lats. In proliferating cells, Rae1 loss restricts Cyclin B levels and organ size while Rae1 over-expression increases Cyclin B levels and organ size, similar to Hippo Pathway over-activation or loss-of-function, respectively. Importantly, Rae1 regulation by the Hippo Pathway is crucial for its regulation of Cyclin B and organ size; reducing Rae1 blocks Cyclin B accumulation and suppresses overgrowth caused by Hippo pathway loss. Surprisingly, in addition to suppressing overgrowth, reducing Rae1 also compromises survival of epithelial tissue overgrowing due to loss of Hippo signaling leading to a tissue 'synthetic lethality' phenotype. Excitingly, Rae1 plays a highly conserved role to reduce the levels and activity of the Yki/YAP oncogene. Rae1 increases activation of the core kinases Hippo and Warts and plays a post-transcriptional role to increase the protein levels of the Merlin, Hippo, and Warts components of the pathway; therefore, in addition to Rae1 coordinating organ size regulation with proliferative control, it is proposed that Rae1 also acts in a feedback circuit to regulate pathway homeostasis (Jahanshahi, 2016).

    The Strip-Hippo pathway regulates synaptic terminal formation by modulating actin organization at the Drosophila neuromuscular synapses

    Synapse formation requires the precise coordination of axon elongation, cytoskeletal stability, and diverse modes of cell signaling. The underlying mechanisms of this interplay, however, remain unclear. This study demonstrates that Strip, a component of the striatin-interacting phosphatase and kinase (STRIPAK) complex that regulates these processes, is required to ensure the proper development of synaptic boutons at the Drosophila neuromuscular junction. In doing so, Strip negatively regulates the activity of the Hippo (Hpo) pathway, an evolutionarily conserved regulator of organ size whose role in synapse formation is currently unappreciated. Strip functions genetically with Enabled, an actin assembly/elongation factor and the presumptive downstream target of Hpo signaling, to modulate local actin organization at synaptic termini. This regulation occurs independently of the transcriptional co-activator Yorkie, the canonical downstream target of the Hpo pathway. This study identifies a previously unanticipated role of the Strip-Hippo pathway in synaptic development, linking cell signaling to actin organization (Sakuma, 2016).

    Since the Hippo (Hpo) pathway was discovered as the key regulator to ensure the appropriate final tissue size by coordinating cell proliferation and cell death, large-scale genetics studies have identified numerous regulators of the Hpo pathway. While most pathway components identified thus far are positive regulators of Hpo, some negative regulators were recently reported. One such negative regulator is the STRIPAK (STRiatin-Interacting Phosphatase And Kinase) complex, which is evolutionarily conserved and regulates various cellular processes including cell cycle control and cell polarity. The core component of the STRIPAK complex is the striatin family of proteins: striatins serve as B‴ subunits (one of the subfamily of regulatory B subunits) of the protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A) complex. Beyond this, the A and C subunits of PP2A, Mob3, Mst3, Mst4, Ysk1, Ccm3, Strip1, and Strip2 form the core mammalian STRIPAK complex. It has been previously reported that Strip, the Drosophila homolog of mammalian Strip1 and 2, is involved in early endosome formation, which is essential for axon elongation. Building on these findings, it was hypothesized that the Strip-Hpo pathway may also be involved in neuronal synaptic development (Sakuma, 2016).

    The Drosophila larval neuromuscular junction (NMJ) is an ideal model for studying synaptic development because of its identifiable, stereotyped morphology, accessibility, broad complement of available reagents, and suitability for a wide range of experimental approaches. Furthermore, the Drosophila NMJ, like vertebrate central synapses, is glutamatergic, suggesting that the molecular mechanisms that regulate synaptic development in Drosophila NMJ might be applicable to vertebrates. Motor neuron axons are genetically hardwired to target specific muscles by the end of the embryonic stage. There, axonal growth cones subsequently differentiate into presynaptic termini, called boutons, each of which contains multiple active zones). During the larval stage, muscle size increases nearly 100-fold and boutons are continuously and proportionately added to maintain constant innervation strength. Various molecules can negatively or positively regulate the growth of synaptic termini. Amongst the many factors, elements of the actin cytoskeleton are key effectors of morphological change, functioning downstream of several cell surface receptors and signaling pathways. Of the two types of actin filaments (branched and linear), the activity of Arp2/3 complex, responsible for nucleation of branched F-actin, the first step of actin polymerization, should be strictly regulated. Arp2/3 hyperactivation results in synaptic terminal overgrowth characterized by excess small boutons emanating from the main branch that are termed satellite boutons (Sakuma, 2016).

    This study shows that Strip negatively regulates the synapse terminal development through tuning the activity of the core Hpo kinase cassette. Loss or reduction of strip function in motor neurons increased the number of satellite boutons, which could be suppressed by reducing the genetic dosage of hpo. Similarly, activation of the core Hpo kinase cassette also increased satellite boutons. In this context, the presumptive downstream target of the core Hpo kinase cassette is Enabled (Ena), a regulator of F-actin assembly and elongation that was reported to antagonize the activity of Arp2/3. The canonical downstream transcriptional co-activator, Yorkie (Yki), appears dispensable for Hpo-mediated synaptic terminal development. It is proposed that the evolutionarily conserved Strip-Hpo pathway regulates local actin organization by modulating Ena activity during synaptic development (Sakuma, 2016).

    This study has identified Strip and components of the Hpo pathway as regulators of synaptic morphology. In addition to the intensely investigated function of Hpo in growth control in mitotic cells, a few postmitotic roles of the Hpo pathway have recently been uncovered, such as dendrite tiling in Drosophila sensory neurons and cell fate specification of photoreceptor cells in Drosophila retina. This study now finds an additional postmitotic role for Hpo in synaptic terminal development. The results indicate that Strip and the core Hpo kinase cassette regulate satellite bouton formation by regulating the activity of Ena, an actin regulator that is involved in the initiation, extension, and maintenance of linear actin filaments at the barbed end. Although it cannot be excluded that there might be other targets of Yki in motor neurons than diap1 or bantam whose transcriptional activations were not observed in this study, Yki, a well-known downstream target of the core Hpo kinase cassette, was dispensable for proper synaptic morphology. Ena phosphorylation causes its inactivation; therefore, it was reasoned that Strip can act as a positive regulator of Ena by inactivating the Hpo pathway. A model is proposed for the regulation of satellite bouton formation by Strip and Hpo pathway components (see The Strip-Hpo pathway regulates satellite bouton formation with Ena, a regulator of F-actin organization). As the presynaptic localization of endogenous Strip was punctate and non-uniform, it is expected that Strip localization could be critical for regulating the phosphorylation status of Hpo, Wts, and Ena, which locally alters actin organization and eventually specifies the position of satellite bouton formation that could be a marker for new bouton outgrowth. When Strip is present, the core Hpo kinase cassette is inactivated, which in turn locally increases the expression of the active (unphosphorylated) form of Ena. However, the core Hpo kinase cassette can be activated in the absence of Strip, which subsequently phosphorylates and inactivates Ena. Ena prevents Arp2/3-induced branching, suggesting that Ena inactivation activates Arp2/3 and results in satellite bouton formation, similar to Rac activation. It is reported that Arp2/3 is involved in bouton formation and axon terminal branching downstream of WAVE/SCAR complex in NMJ. Indeed, the cureent findings support this hypothesis. F-actin organization was altered by strip knockdown in motor neurons. When the GFP-moe reporter was expressed in motor neuron, the GFP fused to the C-terminal actin-binding domain of Moesin, which is widely used as an F-actin reporter. The intensity of actin puncta became higher and puncta were unevenly distributed when strip was knocked down. This data suggests that Strip function is important for the proper organization of F-actin (Sakuma, 2016).

    There are many indications that Strip and other STRIPAK components (Mst3, Mst4, and Ccm3) regulate the actin network. For example, Strip1, Strip2, Mst3, and Mst4 regulate the actomyosin contractions which regulate cell migration in cancer cells. In addition to regulating the actin network, STRIPAK has been suggested to function in microtubule organization. Mutants of Drosophila Mob4, a member of the core STRIPAK complex and homolog of mammalian Mob3, show abnormal microtubule morphology at NMJs and muscles. Furthermore, it has been reported that Strip forms a complex with Glued, the homolog of mammalian p150Glued, a component of the dynactin complex required for dynein motor-mediated retrograde transport along microtubules. Strip also affects microtubule stability. As previously mentioned, microtubules are also key effectors of synaptic development downstream of several receptors and signaling pathways. Taken together, the STRIPAK complex can act as a regulatory hub for multiple cellular signals including Hpo pathway-mediated actin organization, endocytic pathway-dependent BMP signals, and microtubule stability for proper synaptic development (Sakuma, 2016).

    The Hpo pathway has been reported to act as a sensor of the local cellular microenvironment, such as mechanical cues, apico-basal polarity and actin architecture to balance cell proliferation and cell death. Although synaptic morphogenesis is a postmitotic process, it is very plastic and depends on a dynamically changing extracellular environment, as exemplified by the nearly 100-fold expansion of muscle size during larval development. Thus, this study demonstrates an intriguing function for the Strip-Hippo pathway in the homeostatic control of neuronal synaptic morphology and function (Sakuma, 2016).

    Localized JNK signaling regulates organ size during development

    A fundamental question of biology is what determines organ size. Despite demonstrations that factors within organs determine their sizes, intrinsic size control mechanisms remain elusive. This study shows that Drosophila wing size is regulated by JNK signaling during development. JNK is active in a stripe along the center of developing wings, and modulating JNK signaling within this stripe changes organ size. This JNK stripe influences proliferation in a non-canonical, Jun-independent manner by inhibiting the Hippo pathway. Localized JNK activity is established by Hedgehog signaling, where Ci elevates dTRAF1 expression. As the dTRAF1 homolog, TRAF4, is amplified in numerous cancers, these findings provide a new mechanism for how the Hedgehog pathway could contribute to tumorigenesis, and, more importantly, provides a new strategy for cancer therapies. Finally, modulation of JNK signaling centers in developing antennae and legs changes their sizes, suggesting a more generalizable role for JNK signaling in developmental organ size control (Willsey, 2016).

    Two independently generated antibodies that recognize the phosphorylated, active form of JNK (pJNK) specifically label a stripe in the pouch of developing wildtype third instar wing discs. Importantly, localized pJNK staining is not detected in hemizygous JNKK mutant discs, in clones of JNKK mutant cells within the stripe, following over-expression of the JNK phosphatase puckered (puc), or following RNAi-mediated knockdown of bsk using two independent, functionally validated RNAi lines (Willsey, 2016).

    The stripe of localized pJNK staining appeared to be adjacent to the anterior-posterior (A/P) compartment boundary, a location known to play a key role in organizing wing growth, and a site of active Hedgehog (Hh) signaling. Indeed, pJNK co-localizes with the Hh target gene patched (ptc). Expression of the JNK phosphatase puc in these cells specifically abrogated pJNK staining, as did RNAi-mediated knockdown of bsk. Together, these data indicate that the detected pJNK signal reflects endogenous JNK signaling activity in the ptc domain, a region of great importance to growth control. Indeed, while at earlier developmental stages pJNK staining is detected in all wing pouch cells, the presence of a localized stripe of pJNK correlates with the time when the majority of wing disc growth occurs (1000 cells/disc at mid-L3 stage to 50,000 cells/disc at 20 hr after pupation, so it is hypothesized that localized pJNK plays a role in regulating growth (Willsey, 2016).

    Inhibition of JNK signaling in the posterior compartment previously led to the conclusion that JNK does not play a role in wing development. The discovery of an anterior stripe of JNK activity spurred a reexamination of the issue. Since bsk null mutant animals are embryonic lethal, JNK signaling was conditionally inhibited in three independent ways in the developing wing disc. JNK inhibition was achieved by RNAi-mediated knockdown of bsk (bskRNAi#1or2), by expression of JNK phosphatase (puc), or by expression of a dominant negative bsk (bskDN). These lines have been independently validated as JNK inhibitors. Inhibition of JNK in all wing blade cells (rotund-Gal4, rn-Gal4) or specifically in ptc-expressing cells (ptc-Gal4) resulted in smaller adult wings in all cases, up to 40% reduced in the strongest cases. Importantly, expression of a control transgene (UAS-GFP) did not affect wing size. This contribution of JNK signaling to size control is likely an underestimate, as the embryonic lethality of bsk mutations necessitates conditional, hypomorphic analysis. Nevertheless, hypomorphic hepr75/Y animals, while pupal lethal, also have smaller wing discs, as do animals with reduced JNK signaling due to bskDN expression. Importantly, total body size is not affected by inhibiting JNK in the wing. Even for the smallest wings generated (rn-Gal4, UAS-bskDN), total animal body size is not altered (Willsey, 2016).

    To test whether elevation of this signal can increase organ size, eiger (egr), a potent JNK activator, was expressed within the ptc domain (ptc-Gal4, UAS-egr). Despite induction of cell death as previously reporte and late larval lethality, a dramatic increase was observed in wing disc size without apparent duplications or changes in the shape of the disc. While changes in organ size could be due to changing developmental time, wing discs with elevated JNK signaling were already larger than controls assayed at the same time point. Similarly, inhibition of JNK did not shorten developmental time. Thus, changes in organ size by modulating JNK activity do not directly result from altering developmental time. Finally, the observed increase in organ size is not due to induction of apoptosis, as expression of the pro-apoptotic gene hid does not increase organ size. In contrast, it causes a decrease in wing size. Furthermore, co-expression of diap1 or p35 did not significantly affect the growth effect of egr expression, while the effect was dependent on Bsk activity (Willsey, 2016).

    In stark contrast to known developmental morphogens, no obvious defects were observed in wing venation pattern following JNK inhibition, suggesting that localized pJNK may control growth in a pattern formation-independent manner. Indeed, even a slight reduction in Dpp signaling results in dramatic wing vein patterning defects. Second, inhibiting Dpp signaling causes a reduction in wing size along the A-P axis, while JNK inhibition causes a global reduction. Furthermore, ectopic Dpp expression increases growth in the form of duplicated structures, while increased JNK signaling results in a global increase in size. Molecularly, it was confirmed that reducing Dpp signaling abolishes pSMAD staining, while quantitative data shows that inhibiting JNK signaling does not. Furthermore, it was also found that Dpp is not upstream of pJNK, as reduction in Dpp signaling does not affect pJNK. Together, the molecular data are consistent with the phenotypic results indicating that pJNK and Dpp are separate programs in regulating growth. Consistent with these findings it has been suggested that Dpp does not play a primary role in later larval wing growth control (Akiyama, 2015). Finally, it was found that inhibition of JNK does not affect EGFR signaling (pERK) and that inhibition of EGFR does not affect the establishment of pJNK (Willsey, 2016).

    A difference in size could be due to changes in cell size and/or number. Wings with reduced size due to JNK inhibition were examined and no changes in cell size or apoptosis were found, suggesting that pJNK controls organ size by regulating cell number. Consistently, the cell death inhibitor p35 was unable to rescue the decreased size following JNK inhibition. Indeed, inhibition of JNK signaling resulted in a decrease in proliferation, while elevation of JNK signaling in the ptc domain resulted in an increase in cell proliferation in the enlarged wing disc. Importantly, this increased proliferation is not restricted to the ptc domain, consistent with previous reports that JNK can promote proliferation non-autonomously (Willsey, 2016).

    To determine the mechanism by which pJNK controls organ size, canonical JNK signaling through its target Jun was considered. Interestingly, RNAi-mediated knockdown of jun in ptc cells does not change wing size, consistent with previous analysis of jun mutant clones in the wing disc. Furthermore, in agreement with this, a reporter of canonical JNK signaling downstream of jun (puc-lacZ) is not expressed in the pJNK stripe. Finally, knockdown of fos (kayak, kay) alone or with junRNAi did not affect wing size. Together, these data indicate that canonical JNK signaling through jun does not function in the pJNK stripe to regulate wing size (Willsey, 2016).

    In search of such a non-canonical mechanism of JNK-mediated size control, the Hippo pathway was considered. JNK signaling regulates the Hippo pathway to induce autonomous and non-autonomous proliferation during tumorigenesis and regeneration via activation of the transcriptional regulator Yorkie (Yki). Recently it has been shown that JNK activates Yki via direct phosphorylation of Jub. To test whether this link between JNK and Jub could account for the role of localized pJNK in organ size control during development, RNAi-mediated knockdown of jub was performed in the ptc stripe, and adults with smaller wings were observed. Indeed, the effect of JNK loss on wing size can be partially suppressed in a heterozygous lats mutant background and increasing downstream yki expression in all wing cells or just within the ptc domain can rescue wing size following JNK inhibition. These results suggest that pJNK controls Yki activity autonomously within the ptc stripe, leading to a global change in cell proliferation. This hypothesis predicts that the Yki activity level within the ptc stripe influences overall wing size. Consistently, inhibition of JNK in the ptc stripe translates to homogeneous changes in anterior and posterior wing growth. Similarly, overexpression or inhibition of Yki signaling in the ptc stripe also results in a global change in wing size (Willsey, 2016).

    It is important to note that the yki expression line used is wild-type Yki, which is still affected by JNK signaling. For this reason, the epistasis experiment was also performed with activated Yki, which is independent of JNK signaling. Expression of this activated Yki in the ptc stripe caused very large tumors and lethality. Importantly, inhibiting JNK in this context did not affect the formation of these tumors or the lethality. Furthermore, inhibiting both JNK and Yki together does not enhance the phenotype of Yki inhibition alone, further supporting the idea that Yki is epistatic to JNK, instead of acting in parallel processes (Willsey, 2016).

    Mutants of the Yki downstream target four-jointed (fj) have small wings with normal patterning, and fj is known to propagate Hippo signaling and affect proliferation non-autonomously. Although RNAi-mediated knockdown of fj in ptc cells does not cause an obvious change in wing size, it is sufficient to block the Yki-induced effect on increasing wing size . However, overexpression of fj also reduces wing size, which makes it not possible to test for a simple epistatic relationship. Overall, these data are consistent with the notion that localized pJNK regulates wing size not by Jun-dependent canonical JNK signaling, but rather by Jun-independent non-canonical JNK signaling involving the Hippo pathway (Willsey, 2016).

    While morphogens direct both patterning and growth of developing organs, a link between patterning molecules and growth control pathways has not been established. pJNK staining is coincident with ptc expression, suggesting it could be established by Hh signaling. During development, posterior Hh protein travels across the A/P boundary, leading to activation of the transcription factor Cubitus interruptus (Ci) in the stripe of anterior cells. To test whether localized activation of JNK is a consequence of Hh signaling through Ci, RNAi-mediated knockdown of ci was performed, and it was found that the pJNK stripe is eliminated. Consistently, adult wing size is globally reduced. In contrast, no change was observed in pJNK stripe staining following RNAi-mediated knockdown of dpp or EGFR. Expression of non-processable Ci leads to increased Hh signaling. Expression of this active Ci in ptc cells leads to an increase in pJNK signal and larger, well-patterned adult wings. The modest size increase shown for ptc>CiACT is likely due to the fact that higher expression of this transgene (at 25 ° C) leads to such large wings that pupae cannot emerge from their cases. For measuring wing size, this experiment was performed at a lower temperature so that the animals were still viable. Furthermore, inhibition of JNK in wings expressing active Ci blocks Ci's effects, and resulting wings are similar in size to JNK inhibition alone . Together, these data indicate that Hh signaling through Ci is responsible for establishing the pJNK stripe (Willsey, 2016).

    To determine the mechanism by which Ci activates the JNK pathway, transcriptional profiles of posterior and ptc domain cells isolated by FACS from third instar wing discs were compared. Of the total 12,676 unique genes represented on the microarray, 50.4% (6,397) are expressed in ptc domain cells, posterior cells, or both. Hh pathway genes known to be differentially expressed were identified. It was next asked whether any JNK pathway genes are differentially expressed, and and it was found that dTRAF1 expression is more than five-fold increased in ptc cells, while other JNK pathway members are not differentially expressed (Willsey, 2016).

    dTRAF1 is expressed along the A/P boundary and ectopic expression of dTRAF1 activates JNK signaling. Thus, positive regulation of dTRAF1 expression by Ci could establish a stripe of pJNK that regulates wing size. Indeed, Ci binding motifs were identified in the dTRAF1 gene, and a previous large-scale ChIP study confirms a Ci binding site within the dTRAF1 gene. Consistently, a reduction in Ci led to a 29% reduction in dTRAF1 expression in wing discs. Given that the reduction of dTRAF1 expression in the ptc stripe is buffered by Hh-independent dTRAF1 expression elsewhere in the disc, this 29% reduction is significant. Furthermore, inhibition of dTRAF1 by RNAi knockdown abolished pJNK staining. Finally, these animals have smaller wings without obvious pattern defects. Conversely, overexpression of dTRAF1 causes embryonic lethality, making it not possible to attempt to rescue a dTRAF1 overexpression wing phenotype by knockdown of bsk. Nevertheless, it has been shown that dTRAF1 function in the eye is Bsk-dependent. Finally, inhibition of dTRAF1 modulates the phenotype of activated Ci signaling. Together, these data reveal that the pJNK stripe in the developing wing is established by Hh signaling through Ci-mediated induction of dTRAF1 expression (Willsey, 2016).

    Finally, localized centers of pJNK activity were detected during the development of other imaginal discs including the eye/antenna and leg. Inhibition of localized JNK signaling during development caused a decrease in adult antenna size and leg size. Conversely, increasing JNK signaling during development resulted in pupal lethality; nevertheless, overall sizes of antenna and leg discs were increased. Together, these data indicate that localized JNK signaling regulates size in other organs in addition to the wing, suggesting a more universal effect of JNK on size control (Willsey, 2016).

    Intrinsic mechanisms of organ size control have long been proposed and sought after. This study reveals that in developing Drosophila tissues, localized, organ-specific centers of JNK signaling contribute to organ size in an activity level-dependent manner. Such a size control mechanism is qualitatively distinct from developmental morphogen mechanisms, which affect both patterning and growth. Aptly, this mechanism is still integrated in the overall framework of developmental regulation, as it is established in the wing by the Hh pathway. These data indicate that localized JNK signaling is activated by Ci-mediated induction of dTRAF1 expression. Furthermore,it is not canonical Jun-dependent JNK signaling, but rather non-canonical JNK signaling that regulates size, possibly through Jub-dependent regulation of Yki signaling, as described for regeneration. As the human dTRAF1 homolog, TRAF4, and Hippo components are amplified in numerous cancers, these findings provide a new mechanism for how the Hh pathway could contribute to tumorigenesis. More importantly, these findings offer a new strategy for potential cancer therapies, as reactivating Jun in Hh-driven tumors could lead tumor cells towards an apoptotic fate (Willsey, 2016).


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    Zygotically transcribed genes

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