Relish : Biological Overview | Evolutionary Homologs | Regulation | Developmental Biology | Effects of Mutation | References

Gene name - Relish

Synonyms -

Cytological map position - 85C4--6

Function - transcription factor

Keywords - immune response - Relish acts in the IMD pathway

Symbol - Rel

FlyBase ID: FBgn0014018

Genetic map position - 3-

Classification - Ankyrin-repeat and NFkappaB domain protein

Cellular location - nuclear and cytoplasmic

NCBI link: Entrez Gene
Rel orthologs: Biolitmine
Recent literature
Nandy, A., Lin, L., Velentzas, P. D., Wu, L. P., Baehrecke, E. H. and Silverman, N. (2018). The NF-kappaB factor Relish regulates Atg1 expression and controls autophagy. Cell Rep 25(8): 2110-2120.e2113. PubMed ID: 30463009
Macroautophagy and cell death both contribute to innate immunity, but little is known about how these processes integrate. Drosophila larval salivary glands require autophagy for developmentally programmed cell death, and innate immune signaling factors increase in these dying cells. This study shows that the nuclear factor kappaB (NF-kappaB) factor Relish, a component of the immune deficiency (Imd) pathway, is required for salivary gland degradation. Surprisingly, of the classic Imd pathway components, only Relish and the PGRP receptors were involved in salivary gland degradation. Significantly, Relish controls salivary gland degradation by regulating autophagy but not caspases. In addition, expression of either Relish or PGRP-LC causes premature autophagy induction and subsequent gland degradation. Relish controls autophagy by regulating the expression of Atg1, a core component and activator of the autophagy pathway. Together these findings demonstrate that a NF-kappaB pathway regulates autophagy during developmentally programmed cell death.
Chowdhury, M., Zhang, J., Xu, X. X., He, Z., Lu, Y., Liu, X. S., Wang, Y. F. and Yu, X. Q. (2019). An in vitro study of NF-kappaB factors cooperatively in regulation of Drosophila melanogaster antimicrobial peptide genes. Dev Comp Immunol 95: 50-58. PubMed ID: 30735676
An important innate immune response in Drosophila melanogaster is the production of antimicrobial peptides (AMPs). Expression of AMP genes is mediated by the Toll and immune deficiency (IMD) pathways via NF-kappaB transcription factors Dorsal, DIF and Relish. Dorsal and DIF act downstream of the Toll pathway, whereas Relish acts in the IMD pathway. Dorsal and DIF are held inactive in the cytoplasm by the IkappaB protein Cactus, while Relish contains an IkappaB-like inhibitory domain at the C-terminus. NF-kappaB factors normally form homodimers and heterodimers to regulate gene expression, but formation of heterodimers between Relish and DIF or Dorsal and the specificity and activity of the three NF-kappaB homodimers and heterodimers are not well understood. This study compared the activity of Rel homology domains (RHDs) of Dorsal, DIF and Relish in activation of Drosophila AMP gene promoters, demonstrated that Relish-RHD (Rel-RHD) interacted with both Dorsal-RHD and DIF-RHD, Relish-N interacted with DIF and Dorsal, and overexpression of individual RHD and co-expression of any two RHDs activated the activity of AMP gene promoters to various levels, suggesting formation of homodimers and heterodimers among Dorsal, DIF and Relish. Rel-RHD homodimers were stronger activators than heterodimers of Rel-RHD with either DIF-RHD or Dorsal-RHD, while DIF-RHD-Dorsal-RHD heterodimers were stronger activators than either DIF-RHD or Dorsal-RHD homodimers in activation of AMP gene promoters. The nucleotides at the 6th and 8th positions of the 3' half-sites of the kappaB motifs were identified that are important for the specificity and activity of NF-kappaB transcription factors.
Wang, L., Sloan, M. A. and Ligoxygakis, P. (2019). Intestinal NF-kappaB and STAT signalling is important for uptake and clearance in a Drosophila-Herpetomonas interaction model. PLoS Genet 15(3): e1007931. PubMed ID: 30822306
Dipteran insects transmit serious diseases to humans, often in the form of trypanosomatid parasites. To accelerate research in more difficult contexts of dipteran-parasite relationships, this study examined the interaction of the model dipteran Drosophila melanogaster and its natural trypanosomatid Herpetomonas muscarum. Parasite infection reduced fecundity but not lifespan in NF-kappaB/Relish-deficient flies. Gene expression analysis implicated the two NF-kappaB pathways Toll and Imd as well as STAT signalling. Tissue specific knock-down of key components of these pathways in enterocytes (ECs) and intestinal stem cells (ISCs) influenced initial numbers, infection dynamics and time of clearance. Herpetomonas triggered STAT activation and proliferation of ISCs. Loss of Relish suppressed ISCs, resulting in increased parasite numbers and delayed clearance. Conversely, overexpression of Relish increased ISCs and reduced uptake. Finally, loss of Toll signalling decreased EC numbers and enabled parasite persistence. This network of signalling may represent a general mechanism with which dipteran respond to trypanosomatids.
West, C., Rus, F., Chen, Y., Kleino, A., Gangloff, M., Gammon, D. B. and Silverman, N. (2019). IIV-6 inhibits NF-kappaB responses in Drosophila. Viruses 11(5). PubMed ID: 31052481
The host immune response and virus-encoded immune evasion proteins pose constant, mutual selective pressure on each other. Virally encoded immune evasion proteins also indicate which host pathways must be inhibited to allow for viral replication. This study shows that Invertebrate iridescent virus 6 (IIV-6) is capable of inhibiting the two Drosophila NF-kappaB signaling pathways, Imd and Toll. Antimicrobial peptide (AMP) gene induction downstream of either pathway is suppressed when cells infected with IIV-6 are also stimulated with Toll or Imd ligands. Cleavage of both Imd and Relish, as well as Relish nuclear translocation, three key points in Imd signal transduction, occur in IIV-6 infected cells, indicating that the mechanism of viral inhibition is farther downstream, at the level of Relish promoter binding or transcriptional activation. Additionally, flies co-infected with both IIV-6 and the Gram-negative bacterium, Erwinia carotovora carotovora, succumb to infection more rapidly than flies singly infected with either the virus or the bacterium. These findings demonstrate how pre-existing infections can have a dramatic and negative effect on secondary infections, and establish a Drosophila model to study confection susceptibility.
Maitra, U., Scaglione, M. N., Chtarbanova, S. and O'Donnell, J. M. (2019). Innate immune responses to paraquat exposure in a Drosophila model of Parkinson's disease. Sci Rep 9(1): 12714. PubMed ID: 31481676
Parkinson's disease (PD) is a progressive, neurodegenerative movement disorder characterized by the loss of dopaminergic (DA) neurons. Limited understanding of the early molecular pathways associated with the demise of DA neurons, including those of inflammatory exacerbation of neurodegeneration, is a major impediment to therapeutic development. Recent studies have implicated gene-environment interactions in PD susceptibility. This study used transcriptomic profiling in a Drosophila PD model in response to paraquat (PQ)-induced oxidative stress to identify pre-symptomatic signatures of impending neuron dysfunction. RNAseq data analysis revealed extensive regulation of innate immune response genes following PQ ingestion. PQ exposure leads to the activation of the NF-kappaB transcription factor, Relish, and the stress signaling factor JNK, encoded by the gene basket in Drosophila. Relish knockdown in the dopaminergic neurons confers PQ resistance and rescues mobility defects and DA neuron loss. Furthermore, PQ-induced toxicity is mediated through the immune deficiency signaling pathway. Surprisingly, the expression of Relish-dependent anti-microbial peptide (AMPs) genes is suppressed upon PQ exposure causing increased sensitivity to Gram-negative bacterial infection. This work provides a novel link between PQ exposure and innate immune system modulation underlying environmental toxin-induced neurodegeneration, thereby underscoring the role of the innate immune system in PD pathogenesis.
Masuzzo, A., Maniere, G., Viallat-Lieutaud, A., Avazeri, E., Zugasti, O., Grosjean, Y., Kurz, C. L. and Royet, J. (2019). Peptidoglycan-dependent NF-kappaB activation in a small subset of brain octopaminergic neurons controls female oviposition. Elife 8. PubMed ID: 31661076
When facing microbes, animals engage in behaviors that lower the impact of the infection. Internal sensing of bacterial peptidoglycan (PGRP-LB) has been shown to reduce Drosophila female oviposition via NF-kappaB pathway activation in some neurons. Although this study showed that the neuromodulator octopamine is implicated, the identity of the involved neurons, as well as the physiological mechanism blocking egg-laying, remained unknown. This study has identified few ventral nerve cord and brain octopaminergic neurons expressing an NF-kappaB pathway component. This study functionally demonstrated that NF-kappaB pathway activation in the brain, but not in the ventral nerve cord octopaminergic neurons, triggers an egg-laying drop in response to infection. Furthermore, it was demonstrated via calcium imaging that the activity of these neurons can be directly modulated by peptidoglycan and that these cells do not control other octopamine-dependent behaviors such as female receptivity. This study shows that by sensing peptidoglycan and hence activating NF-kappaB cascade, a couple of brain neurons modulate a specific octopamine-dependent behavior to adapt female physiology status to their infectious state.
Barretto, E. C., Polan, D. M., Beevor-Potts, A. N., Lee, B. and Grewal, S. S. (2020). Tolerance to Hypoxia Is Promoted by FOXO Regulation of the Innate Immunity Transcription Factor NF-κB/Relish in Drosophila. Genetics. PubMed ID: 32513813
Exposure of tissues and organs to low oxygen (hypoxia) occurs in both physiological and pathological conditions in animals. Under these conditions, organisms have to adapt their physiology to ensure proper functioning and survival. This study defined a role for the transcription factor FOXO as a mediator of hypoxia tolerance in Drosophila. Upon hypoxia exposure, FOXO transcriptional activity is rapidly induced in both larvae and adults. Moreover, foxo mutant animals show misregulated glucose metabolism in low oxygen and subsequently exhibit reduced hypoxia survival. The innate immune transcription factor, NF-κB/Relish, was identified as a key FOXO target in the control of hypoxia tolerance. Expression of Relish and its target genes are increased in a FOXO-dependent manner in hypoxia, and relish mutant animals show reduced survival in hypoxia. Together, these data indicate that FOXO is a hypoxia inducible factor that mediates tolerance to low oxygen by inducing immune-like responses.
Vandehoef, C., Molaei, M. and Karpac, J. (2020). Dietary Adaptation of Microbiota in Drosophila Requires NF-kappaB-Dependent Control of the Translational Regulator 4E-BP. Cell Rep 31(10): 107736. PubMed ID: 32521261
Dietary nutrients shape complex interactions between hosts and their commensal gut bacteria, further promoting flexibility in host-microbiota associations that can drive nutritional symbiosis. However, it remains less clear if diet-dependent host signaling mechanisms also influence these associations. Using Drosophila, this study shows that nuclear factor κB (NF-κB)/Relish, an innate immune transcription factor emerging as a signaling node linking nutrient-immune-metabolic interactions, is vital to adapt gut microbiota species composition to host diet macronutrient composition. Relish was found to be required within midgut enterocytes to amplify host-Lactobacillus associations, an important bacterial mediator of nutritional symbiosis, and thus modulate microbiota composition in response to dietary adaptation. Relish limits diet-dependent transcriptional inducibility of the cap-dependent translation inhibitor 4E-BP/Thor to control microbiota composition. Furthermore, maintaining cap-dependent translation in response to dietary adaptation is critical to amplify host-Lactobacillus associations. These results highlight that NF-κB-dependent host signaling mechanisms, in coordination with host translation control, shape diet-microbiota interactions.
Cammarata-Mouchtouris, A., Nguyen, X. H., Acker, A., Bonnay, F., Goto, A., Orian, A., Fauvarque, M. O., Boutros, M., Reichhart, J. M. and Matt, N. (2020). Hyd ubiquitinates the NF-kappaB co-factor Akirin to operate an effective immune response in Drosophila. PLoS Pathog 16(4): e1008458. PubMed ID: 32339205
The Immune Deficiency (IMD) pathway in Drosophila melanogaster is activated upon microbial challenge with Gram-negative bacteria to trigger the innate immune response. In order to decipher this nuclear factor kappaB (NF-kappaB) signaling pathway, an in vitro RNAi screen was undertaken targeting E3 ubiquitin ligases specifically, and the HECT-type E3 ubiquitin ligase Hyperplastic discs (Hyd) was identified as a new actor in the IMD pathway. Hyd mediated Lys63 (K63)-linked polyubiquitination of the NF-kappaB cofactor Akirin was identified as being required for efficient binding of Akirin to the NF-kappaB transcription factor Relish. This Hyd-dependent interaction was required for the transcription of immunity-related genes that are activated by both Relish and Akirin but was dispensable for the transcription of genes that depend solely on Relish. Therefore Hyd is key in NF-kappaB transcriptional selectivity downstream of the IMD pathway. Drosophila depleted of Akirin or Hyd failed to express the full set of genes encoding immune-induced anti-microbial peptides and succumbed to immune challenges. It was further shown that UBR5, the mammalian homolog of Hyd, was also required downstream of the NF-kappaB pathway for the activation of Interleukin 6 (IL6) transcription by IL-1beta in cultured human cells. These findings link the action of an E3 ubiquitin ligase to the activation of immune effector genes, deepening the understanding of the involvement of ubiquitination in inflammation and identifying a potential target for the control of inflammatory diseases.
Swanson, L. C., Trujillo, E. A., Thiede, G. H., Katzenberger, R. J., Shishkova, E., Coon, J. J., Ganetzky, B. and Wassarman, D. A. (2020). Survival Following Traumatic Brain Injury in Drosophila Is Increased by Heterozygosity for a Mutation of the NF-kappaB Innate Immune Response Transcription Factor Relish. Genetics. PubMed ID: 33109529
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) pathologies are caused by primary and secondary injuries. Primary injuries result from physical damage to the brain, and secondary injuries arise from cellular responses to primary injuries. A characteristic cellular response is sustained activation of inflammatory pathways commonly mediated by NF-κB transcription factors. Using a Drosophila melanogaster TBI model, previous work found that the main proximal transcriptional response to primary injuries is triggered by activation of Toll and Imd innate immune response pathways that engage NF-κB factors Dif and Relish (Rel), respectively. This study found by mass spectrometry that Rel protein level increased in fly heads at 4-8 h after TBI. To investigate the necessity of Rel for secondary injuries, a null allele, Rel(del), was generated by CRISPR/Cas9 editing. When heterozygous but not homozygous, the Rel(del) mutation reduced mortality at 24 h after TBI and increased the lifespan of injured flies. Additionally, the effect of heterozygosity for Rel(del) on mortality was modulated by genetic background and diet. To identify genes that facilitate effects of Rel(del) on TBI outcomes, genome-wide mRNA expression profiles of uninjured and injured +/+, +/Rel(del) , and Rel(del) /Rel(del) flies were compared at 4 h following TBI. Only a few genes changed expression more than two-fold in +/Rel(del) flies relative to +/+ and Rel(del) /Rel(del) flies, and they were not canonical innate immune response genes. Therefore, Rel is necessary for TBI-induced secondary injuries but in complex ways involving Rel gene dose, genetic background, diet, and possibly small changes in expression of innate immune response genes.
Han, M. H., Kwon, M. J., Ko, B. S., Hyeon, D. Y., Lee, D., Kim, H. J., Hwang, D. and Lee, S. B. (2020). NF-kappaB disinhibition contributes to dendrite defects in fly models of neurodegenerative diseases. J Cell Biol 219(12). PubMed ID: 33090185
Dendrite pathology is frequently observed in various neurodegenerative diseases (NDs). Although previous studies identified several pathogenic mediators of dendrite defects that act through loss of function in NDs, the underlying pathogenic mechanisms remain largely unexplored. A search for additional pathogenic contributors to dendrite defects in NDs identified Relish/NF-kappaB as a novel gain-of-toxicity-based mediator of dendrite defects in animal models for polyglutamine (polyQ) diseases and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). In a Drosophila model for polyQ diseases, polyQ-induced dendrite defects require Dredd/Caspase-8-mediated endoproteolytic cleavage of Relish to generate the N-terminal fragment, Rel68, and subsequent Charon-mediated nuclear localization of Rel68. Rel68 alone induced neuronal toxicity causing dendrite and behavioral defects, and two novel transcriptional targets, Tup and Pros, were identified that mediate Rel68-induced neuronal toxicity. Finally, it was shown that Rel68-induced toxicity also contributes to dendrite and behavioral defects in a Drosophila model for ALS. Collectively, these data propose disinhibition of latent toxicity of Relish/NF-κB as a novel pathogenic mechanism underlying dendrite pathology in NDs.
Cai, H., Holleufer, A., Simonsen, B., Schneider, J., Lemoine, A., Gad, H. H., Huang, J., Huang, J., Chen, D., Peng, T., Marques, J. T., Hartmann, R., Martins, N. E. and Imler, J. L. (2020). 2'3'-cGAMP triggers a STING- and NF-kappaB-dependent broad antiviral response in Drosophila. Sci Signal 13(660). PubMed ID: 33262294
An ortholog of STING has been reported to regulate infection by picorna-like viruses in Drosophila. In mammals, STING is activated by the cyclic dinucleotide 2'3'-cGAMP produced by cGAS, which acts as a receptor for cytosolic DNA. This study showed that injection of flies with 2'3'-cGAMP induced the expression of dSTING-regulated genes. Coinjection of 2'3'-cGAMP with a panel of RNA or DNA viruses resulted in substantially reduced viral replication. This 2'3'-cGAMP-mediated protection was still observed in flies with mutations in Atg7 and AGO2, genes that encode key components of the autophagy and small interfering RNA pathways, respectively. By contrast, this protection was abrogated in flies with mutations in the gene encoding the NF-κB transcription factor Relish. Transcriptomic analysis of 2'3'-cGAMP-injected flies revealed a complex response pattern in which genes were rapidly induced, induced after a delay, or induced in a sustained manner. These results reveal that dSTING regulates an NF-κB-dependent antiviral program that predates the emergence of interferons in vertebrates.
Lee, B., Shin, C., Shin, M., Choi, B., Yuan, C. and Cho, K. S. (2021). The linear ubiquitin E3 ligase-Relish pathway is involved in the regulation of proteostasis in Drosophila muscle during aging. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 550: 184-190. PubMed ID: 33706102
Linear ubiquitination is an atypic ubiquitination process that directly connects the N- and C-termini of ubiquitin and is catalyzed by HOIL-1-interacting protein (HOIP). It is involved in the immune response or apoptosis by activating the nuclear factor-κB pathway and is associated with polyglucosan body myopathy 1, an autosomal recessive disorder with progressive muscle weakness and cardiomyopathy. However, little is currently known regarding the function of linear ubiquitination in muscles. This study investigated the role of linear ubiquitin E3 ligase (LUBEL), a Drosophila HOIP ortholog, in the development and aging of muscles. The muscles of the flies with down-regulation of LUBEL or its downstream factors, kenny and Relish, developed normally, and there were no obvious abnormalities in function in young flies. However, the locomotor activity of the LUBEL RNAi flies was reduced compared to age-matched control, while LUBEL RNAi did not affect the increased mitochondrial fusion or myofiber disorganization during aging. Interestingly, the accumulation of polyubiquitinated protein aggregation during aging decreased in muscles by silencing LUBEL, kenny, or Relish. Meanwhile, the levels of autophagy and global translation, which are implicated in the maintenance of proteostasis, did not change due to LUBEL down-regulation. In conclusion, a new role of linear ubiquitination is proposed in proteostasis in the muscle aging.
Zhou, J., Valentini, E. and Boutros, M. (2021). Microenvironmental innate immune signaling and cell mechanical responses promote tumor growth. Dev Cell 56(13): 1884-1899. PubMed ID: 34197724
Tissue homeostasis is achieved by balancing stem cell maintenance, cell proliferation and differentiation, as well as the purging of damaged cells. Elimination of unfit cells maintains tissue health; however, the underlying mechanisms driving competitive growth when homeostasis fails, for example, during tumorigenesis, remain largely unresolved. Using a Drosophila intestinal model, this study found that tumor cells outcompete nearby enterocytes (ECs) by influencing cell adhesion and contractility. This process relies on activating the immune-responsive Relish/NF-κB pathway to induce EC delamination and requires a JNK-dependent transcriptional upregulation of the peptidoglycan recognition protein PGRP-LA. Consequently, in organisms with impaired PGRP-LA function, tumor growth is delayed and lifespan extended. This study identifies a non-cell-autonomous role for a JNK/PGRP-LA/Relish signaling axis in mediating death of neighboring normal cells to facilitate tumor growth. It is proposed that intestinal tumors "hijack" innate immune signaling to eliminate enterocytes in order to support their own growth.
Ramesh, P., Dey, N. S., Kanwal, A., Mandal, S. and Mandal, L. (2021). Relish plays a dynamic role in the niche to modulate Drosophila blood progenitor homeostasis in development and infection. Elife 10. PubMed ID: 34292149
Immune challenges demand the gearing up of basal hematopoiesis to combat infection. Little is known about how during development, this switch is achieved to take care of the insult. This study shows that the hematopoietic niche of the larval lymph gland of Drosophila senses immune challenge and reacts to it quickly through the nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB), Relish, a component of the immune deficiency (Imd) pathway. During development, Relish is triggered by ecdysone signaling in the hematopoietic niche to maintain the blood progenitors. Loss of Relish causes an alteration in the cytoskeletal architecture of the niche cells in a Jun Kinase dependent manner, resulting in the trapping of Hh implicated in progenitor maintenance. Notably, during infection, downregulation of Relish in the niche tilts the maintenance program towards precocious differentiation, thereby bolstering the cellular arm of the immune response.


Relish was identified in a screen for genes involved in the Drosophila immune system by using PCR differential display to identify genes induced in infected flies. Unlike the single domain proteins Dorsal and Cactus (respectively the classic NF-kappaB- and IkappaB-related proteins of Drosophila), Relish contains both a Rel homology domain (hence the name Relish) and an IkappaB-like domain with six ankyrin repeats. Thus Relish is a dual domain protein. In this respect Relish is similar to the compound mammalian NF-kappaB precursors p100 and p105, although no obvious similarity is seen outside the two conserved domains (Dushay, 1996).

Interesting features have been noted in the regions outside the conserved domains. Like RelB, Relish has an unusually long region N-terminal of the Rel homology domain. Furthermore, just downstream of the Rel homology domain there is a serine-rich stretch, corresponding to the position where p100 and p105 have a glycine-rich region that serves as a processing signal for the generation Rel domain containing p50. The serine-rich sequence in Relish may serve a similar function. Another serine-rich region is found in the N-terminal region of Relish. Finally, there are several potential target sites for phosphorylation by casein kinase II, including four in the spacer between the Rel and ankyrin domains, and five either in or near the PEST region. Casein kinase II has been implicated in the constitutive phosphorylation of the PEST region in IkappaB, and the signal-induced phosphorylation of the same protein is mediated by a kinase with similar target sites (Dushay, 1996).

There is experimental evidence for at least three independent signal transduction pathways in the activation of the immune response in Drosophila. One pathway, defined by the Toll gene, is involved in the defense against fungi. A constitutively active form of Toll can mediate superinduction of the Cecropin gene promoter in the transfected hemocyte line mbn-2. Toll is preferentially involved in the induction of antifungal components such as Drosomycin and metchnikowin. The Toll pathway also requires other dorsal group genes such as tube, pelle, cactus, and spatzle (spz), but not dorsal itself. A second pathway directs an antibacterial response. It is defined by the immune deficiency (imd) mutation, which affects the expression of diptericin and other bactericidal factors, but not of drosomycin. In agreement with this model, factors that have both antibacterial and antifungal activity, such as the cecropins and metchnikowin, appear to respond to both pathways. In addition to these two pathways, recent experiments with the Toll-like gene, 18-wheeler, indicate that a third pathway may exist. Mutations in 18-wheeler affect the induction of Attacin, but not Diptericin or Drosomycin (Hedengren, 1999 and references therein).

Although one or more Rel factors are likely to mediate signals from these pathways in the immune response, the specific role of the three known Rel factors in Drosophila is unclear. Dorsal is not required, because dorsal mutants have no phenotypic effect on the induction of the antimicrobial genes. However, recent data show that Dif is specifically involved in the induction of drosomycin and that Dorsal may play a redundant role in the same pathway. Using P element-mediated mutagenesis, a series of deletions in the Relish gene have been created. These mutations have a profound effect on the induction of the entire set of antimicrobial genes, and it is concluded that Relish is a key factor that controls the antibacterial as well as the antifungal defense in Drosophila. The most straightforward interpretation of the broad effect of the Relish mutants on the antibacterial and antifungal responses is that Relish is involved in all three immunity pathways of Drosophila (Hedengren, 1999)

Relish is a key factor in the induction of the humoral immune response in Drosophila, including antibacterial as well as antifungal factors. In striking contrast, there is a complete lack of effect of Relish on cellular immune reactions and hematopoiesis. These observations indicate that cellular and humoral immune responses are controlled by distinct and independent systems in Drosophila. Hematopoiesis, and perhaps the activation of cellular reactions, may instead be controlled by another Rel factor, Dorsal. Overexpression of this factor has been shown to induce lamellocyte differentiation and cause the formation of melanotic capsules, and similar effects have been observed with mutations that lead to the activation of the Toll pathway (Hedengren, 1999 and references therein).

It is interesting to compare the roles of different Rel factors in the cellular and humoral immune responses of Drosophila with the situation in mammals. A parallel can be drawn between the phenotype of the Relish mutants and the effects seen in knockout mice that carry a disruption of the p105 gene. Such mice have a normal complement of lymphocytes, but they are deficient in both specific and nonspecific responses to infection (Sha, 1995). In contrast, disruption of the RelA and RelB genes in mice gives more complex developmental phenotypes, including effects on hematopoiesis. Thus, although the picture is less clear in mice than in Drosophila, it appears to be a conserved feature that different Rel factors regulate immune responses and hematopoiesis (Hedengren, 1999 and references therein).

The relative importance of the humoral factors in Drosophila immunity is dramatically illustrated by the phenotype of the Relish mutants. A single bacterial cell is sufficient to kill these mutants and the resistance to fungal infections is also impaired, even though the cellular immune defense appears to be intact and parasites are efficiently eliminated. This extreme sensitivity to a bacterial infection is surprising, since phagocytosis of bacteria appears to be normal. One possible explanation is that the antibacterial effector functions of the phagocytic cells are impaired in the Relish mutants. Alternatively, and perhaps more likely, enterobacteria such as Enterobacter cloacae may be relatively resistant to the killing mechanisms of the hemocytes. Indeed, injected cells of Enterobacter cloacae or Escherichia coli can survive for a long time in wild-type Drosophila, even though bacteria injected later are eliminated efficiently by the induced immune response. The surviving bacteria probably reside within phagocytic cells, where they are protected from the humoral factors. Thus, the humoral immune response may be the only efficient defense against bacteria such as Enterobacter cloacae or Escherichia coli (Hedengren, 1999 and references therein).

In spite of the dramatic effects on the immune response, homozygous Relish mutants are fertile and give rise to normal offspring. This lack of Relish developmental effects is surprising, considering the fact that early embryos express a specific, maternally contributed form of Relish that lacks the N-terminal domain (Dushay, 1996). The existence of a specific embryonic form suggests that Relish, like dorsal, could play a role in embryogenesis. However, the function of Relish in the early embryo, if any, must be redundant or else it is involved in a more subtle process that is not required for survival (Hedengren, 1999).

Two alternative models are suggested for the role of Relish in the three genetically defined induction pathways of immune responses in Drosophila. The most straightforward interpretation of the broad effect of the Relish mutants on the antibacterial and antifungal responses is that Relish is involved in all three pathways. The case is most clear for the imd pathway, which is of particular importance for the induction of Diptericin and other genes of the antibacterial defense. Since Diptericin induction has an absolute requirement for a functional Relish gene, it has been concluded that Relish is likely to be part of this pathway. Furthermore, Relish could also be involved in the Toll and 18-wheeler pathways, since the inducibility of both Drosomycin and Attacin is significantly reduced in Relish mutants. However, additional factors have to be invoked in order to explain how different pathways can specifically induce different genes. For the Toll pathway, this specificity could be provided by Dif and/or dorsal since these factors have been shown to participate in the Toll-dependent induction of Drosomycin, perhaps in the form of a Relish-Dif (or Relish-Dorsal) heterodimer. In this case, a homo- or a hetero-dimer of Dif and/or Dorsal could partially substitute for loss or Relish, explaining the residual expression of Drosomycin in the Relish mutants. Data supporting this model were very recently obtained by Han (1999). A synergistic effect on Drosomycin expression was found when Relish was overexpressed together with Dif. This indicates that the two factors may indeed cooperate, perhaps as a heterodimer, in the Toll pathway. For the other pathways, no candidates for such specificity factors have been found. The induction of Drosomycin and Attacin is not completely abolished in the Relish mutants, and for this reason at least one Relish-independent pathway must be included in the model (Hedengren, 1999 and references therein).

A second model, which is also consistent with these findings, is suggested by the fact that there is a residual inducibility of Drosomycin in Toll mutants and of Attacin in 18-wheeler mutants. According to this model, Relish and Toll (the latter probably via Dif) act independently to induce Drosomycin, and similarly Relish and 18-wheeler form independent pathways for the induction of Attacin (Hedengren, 1999 and references therein).

It is interesting to observe the complexity of the different signal transduction pathways that converge to activate the immune responses in Drosophila. At least two of these pathways depend on receptors of the Toll family. Several other members of this family can be identified in the database of the Drosophila genome project, and it is possible that yet other signal pathways will be identified as the role of these receptors becomes clear. The availability of Relish and other mutants will help in understanding these different pathways and their role in immunity, not only in Drosophila but probably also in humans (Hedengren, 1999).

Two roles for the Drosophila IKK complex in the activation of Relish and the induction of antimicrobial peptide genes

The Drosophila NF-kappaB transcription factor Relish is an essential regulator of antimicrobial peptide gene induction after gram-negative bacterial infection. Relish is a bipartite NF-kappaB precursor protein, with an N-terminal Rel homology domain and a C-terminal IkappaB-like domain, similar to mammalian p100 and p105. Unlike these mammalian homologs, Relish is endoproteolytically cleaved after infection, allowing the N-terminal NF-kappaB module to translocate to the nucleus. Signal-dependent activation of Relish, including cleavage, requires both the Drosophila IkappaB kinase [consisting of 2 subunits: a catalytic kinase subunit encoded by ird5 (IKKβ) and a regulatory subunit encoded by kenny (IKKγ)] and death-related ced-3/Nedd2-like protein (DREDD), the Drosophila caspase-8 like protease. This report shows that the IKK complex controls Relish by direct phosphorylation on serines 528 and 529. Surprisingly, these phosphorylation sites are not required for Relish cleavage, nuclear translocation, or DNA binding. Instead they are critical for recruitment of RNA polymerase II and antimicrobial peptide gene induction, whereas IKK functions noncatalytically to support Dredd-mediated cleavage of Relish (Ertürk-Hasdemir, 2009).

These data suggest a new model for the regulation of Relish activity. In this model, Relish is controlled by 2 distinct mechanisms, both of which signal downstream of the receptor Peptidoglycan recognition protein LC (PGRP-LC). One arm controls the cleavage of Relish and requires IMD, FADD, DREDD, and the IKK complex. The other arm controls Relish phosphorylation through TAK1 and the IKK complex. Robust induction of antimicrobial peptide expression requires that both mechanisms of control are fully active; Relish must be cleaved and phosphorylated (Ertürk-Hasdemir, 2009).

Phosphorylation of Relish is critical for signal-dependent transcriptional activation of target genes. By using mass spectrometry and in vitro kinase assays, serines 528 and 529 were identified as targets of IKKβ phosphorylation. These serines are phosphorylated rapidly, in cell lines and flies, after immune challenge. Mutation of these residues to alanine resulted in a protein that acted as dominant negative in cell culture, inhibiting the PGN-induced expression of antimicrobial peptide genes Diptericin and Attacin. A recent study reported that ectopic expression of REL-68 (the N-terminal portion of Relish) was not sufficient to drive the expression of the antimicrobial peptide genes Attacin and Cecropin (Wiklund, 2009). Because REL-68 is not expected to be phosphorylated, these results support the conclusion that phosphorylation is critical for Relish-mediated transcriptional activation of AMP genes. However, this article also reported that REL-68 was able to induce Diptericin, which appears to contradict the current findings. In these experiments, transgenic REL-68 is overexpressed, which may contribute to these confusing results (Ertürk-Hasdemir, 2009).

Further supporting the conclusion that Relish phosphorylation is critical, kinase-dead IKKβ transgenic rescue supported only very weak induction of AMP genes in flies. In these experiments, Relish is expressed at normal levels. Surprisingly, serines 528 and 529, and IKKβ catalytic activity itself, were not required for signal-dependent Relish cleavage. Serines 528 and 529 were also not essential for nuclear translocation or DNA binding. Instead, ChIP experiments show that these serines are required for the efficient recruitment of RNA Pol II to the Diptericin locus (Ertürk-Hasdemir, 2009).

These ChIP assays used the 8WG16 mAb, which preferentially recognizes unphosphorylated CTD repeats of the largest subunit of RNA Pol II. The unphosphorylated CTD is associated with the preinitiating RNA Pol II complex recruited to promoters. Thus, these results argue that phosphorylation of Relish on serines 528 and 529 is required for efficient recruitment of RNA Pol II to the Diptericin and Diptericin-B promoters. An alternate possibility, suggested by recent findings on gene regulation in Drosophila, is that phosphorylated Relish could stimulate elongation from paused RNA Pol II. However, a genome-wide analysis of promoters containing stalled RNA Pol II has found that many Drosophila antimicrobial peptide genes are not sites of paused RNA Pol II. The use of 8WG16 in the experiments presented in this study, further argues that phosphorylation of serines 528 and 529 does not modulate RNA Pol II pausing but instead regulates polymerase recruitment to the preinitiation complex at the Diptericin locus. The exact mechanism by which phosphorylation of serines 528 and 529 affect RNA Pol II recruitment remains to be elucidated. It may involve interaction with coactivators, such as components of the mediator complex, or it may involve the recently discovered IMD component Akirin (Goto, 2008), which is argued to function in the nucleus, downstream of Relish (Ertürk-Hasdemir, 2009).

This report also provides further supporting evidence that DREDD may be the caspase that directly cleaves Relish. This study shows that overexpression of DREDD is sufficient to cause Relish cleavage. Relish cleavage required catalytically active DREDD and expression of another apical caspase, the caspase-9 like DRONC, did not generate cleaved Relish. Interestingly, DREDD-mediated Relish cleavage did not lead to Relish phosphorylation and was not sufficient to drive Diptericin expression. Furthermore, immunopurified DREDD, but not drICE, cleaved Relish in vitro, albeit not very efficiently. The poor efficiency of Relish cleavage, in vitro, may be due to the highly oligomeric state of purified Relish and/or the low activity of DREDD, which has proven to be very difficult to produce in an active form. It was also found that a biotinylated peptide with the Relish cleavage site bound active DREDD; although strong evidence for a direct interaction, this assay is not particularly specific. Together, these data strongly suggest that DREDD directly cleaves Relish, but it cannot yet be concluded with certainty that other proteases, such as an effector caspase, are not involved (Ertürk-Hasdemir, 2009).

In addition to DREDD, Relish cleavage also requires both IKK subunits. However, Relish cleavage does not require catalytically active IKKβ. Delaney (2006) showed that TAK1 is not required for Relish cleavage. Because TAK1 is required for the immune-induced activation of the IKK kinase, this result is consistent with the data indicating that IKK catalytic activity is not involved in Relish cleavage. Instead, IKK complex may function as a scaffold or adaptor, but not as a kinase, in controlling the cleavage of Relish (Ertürk-Hasdemir, 2009).

Taken together, these data demonstrate that Relish is regulated by 2 distinct mechanisms. Relish is probably cleaved by DREDD and phosphorylated by the IKK complex. These 2 regulatory mechanisms appear to be independent, because phosphorylation can occur without cleavage, and vice versa, although they are both triggered by PGN stimulation of the receptor PGRP-LC. Surprisingly, the IKK complex also plays a role in the cleavage of Relish, but not through its kinase activity. Instead, IKK-mediated phosphorylation of Relish on serines 528 and 529, within its N-terminal transcription factor module, is necessary for transcriptional activation of target genes (Ertürk-Hasdemir, 2009).

Caspase-Mediated Cleavage, IAP binding, and ubiquitination: linking three mechanisms crucial for Drosophila NF-kappaB signaling

Innate immune responses are critical for the immediate protection against microbial infection. In Drosophila, infection leads to the rapid and robust production of antimicrobial peptides through two NF-kappaB signaling pathways - IMD and Toll. The IMD pathway is triggered by diaminopimelic (DAP)-type peptidoglycan, common to most Gram-negative bacteria. Signaling downstream from the peptidoglycan (PGN) receptors is thought to involve K63 ubiquitination and caspase-mediated cleavage, but the molecular mechanisms remain obscure. This study shows that PGN stimulation causes caspase-mediated cleavage of the Imd protein, exposing a highly conserved IAP-binding motif (IBM) at its neo-N terminus. A functional IBM is required for the association of cleaved IMD with the ubiquitin E3-ligase DIAP2. Through its association with DIAP2, IMD is rapidly conjugated with K63-linked polyubiquitin chains. These results mechanistically connect caspase-mediated cleavage and K63 ubiquitination in immune-induced NF-kappaB signaling (Paquette, 2010).

Activation of the Drosophila IMD pathway by DAP-type peptidoglycan (PGN) leads to the robust and rapid production of a battery of antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) and other immune-responsive genes. Two peptidoglycan recognition protein (PGRP) receptors are responsible for the recognition of DAP-type PGN, the cell surface receptor PGRP-LC and the cytosolic receptor PGRP-LE. DAP-type PGN binding causes these receptors to multimerize or cluster, triggering signal transduction. IMD signaling culminates in activation of the NF-κB precursor Relish and transcriptional induction of AMP genes (Paquette, 2010 and references therein).

Currently, the molecular mechanisms linking these PGN-binding receptors and activation of Relish remain unclear. Genetic experiments suggest that the most receptor-proximal component of the pathway is the imd protein, while the MAP3 kinase TAK1 appears to function downstream. In turn, TAK1 is required for activation of the Drosophila IKK complex, which is essential for the immune-induced cleavage and activation of the NF-κB precursor Relish, the key transcription factor required for immune-responsive AMP gene expression. In addition to NF-κB signaling, TAK1 also mediates immune-induced JNK signaling (Paquette, 2010 and references therein).

Other major components in the IMD pathway include the caspase-8-like DREDD and its adaptor FADD. RNAi-based studies suggest that these proteins have two distinct roles in IMD pathway signaling, one relatively early in the cascade and the second further downstream. Using RNAi, DREDD and FADD have been shown to be required for immune-induced activation of the IKK complex. These data suggested that DREDD and FADD function downstream of IMD but upstream of TAK1; however, it was not established if this upstream role for DREDD involves its protease activity. In its second role, DREDD is thought to proteolytically cleave Relish (Paquette, 2010).

In addition to the components outlined above, several studies have suggested that ubiquitination plays a critical role in the IMD signaling cascade. Recently, Drosophila inhibitor of apoptosis 2 (DIAP2) was shown to be a crucial component of the IMD pathway. Typical of IAP proteins, DIAP2 has three N-terminal BIR domains, which are involved in interactions with proteins carrying conserved IAP-binding motifs (IBMs). In addition, some IAPs, including DIAP2, carry a C-terminal RING finger domain that provides these proteins with ubiquitin E3-ligase activity. Although it is unclear where in the pathway DIAP2 functions, one study showed that the RING finger is indispensable for its role in the immune response, suggesting it operates as an E3-ubiquitin ligase. Also it has been shown, using RNAi-based approaches, that the E2-ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes Uev1a and Ubc13 (bendless) are critical components of the IMD pathway. Notably, Ubc13 and Uev1a function together in a complex to generate K63-linked polyubiquitin chains. K63-polyubiquitin chains are not linked to proteasomal degradation but instead are thought to play regulatory roles. However, no K63-ubiquitinated target protein(s) has been identified in the IMD pathway. Although no connection between DIAP2 and the Bend/Uev1a E2 complex has been established, one attractive scenario is that DIAP2 functions as an E3 together with the Bend-Uev1a E2 complex (Paquette, 2010 and references therein).

The imd1 allele is a strong hypomorphic mutation that impairs innate immune responses. Surprisingly, this allele encodes a conservative amino acid substitution, alanine (A) to valine (V) at position 31, and is positioned in a region with no obvious structural motifs. The reason for the strong hypomorphic phenotype associated with the A31V substitution remains unclear. This work, demonstrates that imd protein is rapidly cleaved following PGN stimulation. Cleavage requires the caspase DREDD and occurs at caspase recognition motif 27LEKD/A31, creating a neo-N terminus at A31 that is critical for the immune-induced association of IMD with DIAP2. Substitution of the neo-N terminus with valine, as in imd1, disrupts the IMD-DIAP2 interaction. Moreover, once associated with DIAP2, cleaved IMD is rapidly K63-polyubiquitinated. Together, these data resolve a number of outstanding questions in IMD signal transduction and present a clear molecular mechanism linking caspase-mediated cleavage to NF-κB activation (Paquette, 2010).

Previous work has demonstrated that the caspase-8-like protease DREDD and its binding partner FADD are required upstream in the IMD pathway, at a position similar to Ubc13 and Uev1a (Zhou, 2005). However, it was not clear from these studies if the protease activity of DREDD is also required in this role upstream in the IMD pathway. This study shows that upon immune stimulation the imd protein is rapidly cleaved in a DREDD- and FADD-dependent manner. In fact, expression of DREDD, without immune stimulation, is sufficient to cause IMD cleavage. A caspase recognition site was identified in IMD, with cleavage predicted to occur after aspartate 30. Substitution of this residue with alanine prevents signal-induced cleavage and creates a dominant-negative allele of imd. This putative cleavage site in IMD (27LEKD/A31) is similar to the Relish cleavage site (542LQHD/G546), consistent with the notion that both proteins are cleaved by the same protease. Likewise, when IMD cleavage was blocked by caspase inhibitors, IMD was no longer ubiquitinated. Alignment of imd protein sequences from 12 Drosophila species and the Anopheles mosquito showed that the cleavage site is highly conserved (LEKD or LETD in all cases). These findings strongly argue that IMD cleavage after position 30 is mediated by DREDD and that this cleavage is critical for further downstream signaling events (Paquette, 2010).

Cleavage of IMD exposes a highly conserved IBM, which then binds the BIR2/3 domains of DIAP2. In the context of programmed cell-death regulation, these IBM motifs are best defined by their neo-N terminal alanine as well as the proline at position 3, both of which are also present in cleaved IMD, supporting the notion that IMD includes an IBM starting at position 31. The notion that IMD carries an IBM also provides a molecular explanation for the hypomorphic phenotype observed in the imd1 mutant, which carries a valine substitution for this alanine at position 1 of cleaved IMD. Although several IAP proteins have been implicated in mammalian innate immune/NF-κB signaling, the significance of their associated BIR domains, as well as their possible binding to proteins with exposed IBMs, has remained largely unexplored. This study shows that the BIR/IBM association plays a crucial role in innate immune NF-κB signaling in Drosophila. These findings present a unique role for the BIR-IBM interaction module outside of the cell-death arena (Paquette, 2010).

Furthermore, characterization of signaling in the imd1, diap2, dredd, and PGRP-LC/LE mutant flies provides critical in vivo verification of the cell-culture data and leads to a proposed model. In particular, the molecular mechanism suggests that immune stimulation leads to the DREDD-dependent cleavage of IMD, perhaps by recruiting IMD, FADD, and DREDD to a receptor complex. Consistent with this aspect of the model, dredd mutants and receptor mutants failed to cleave (or ubiquitinate IMD) following infection. Once cleaved, the exposed IBM of IMD interacts with BIR2 and BIR3 of DIAP2. Currently, it is not known precisely where in the cell the IMD/DIAP2 association occurs. Once associated with DIAP2, cleaved IMD is rapidly K63 ubiquitinated. As the RING-mutated version of diap2 failed to support IMD ubiquitination in flies, DIAP2 likely functions as the E3 for this reaction. Furthermore, the imd1 allele, which fails to interact with DIAP2 because of a mutation in the IBM, demonstrates the critical nature of the IMD-DIAP2 interaction for innate immune signaling. Consistent with the notion that cleavage precedes ubiquitination, mutants that fail to generate ubiquitinated IMD (i.e., diap2 and imd1) actually accumulate more cleaved IMD than is observed in wild-type flies. Presumably, in wild-type animals, cleaved IMD is efficiently ubiquitinated and thus is difficult to detect in assays. In contrast, dredd mutants or mutants lacking the key immunoreceptors (PGRP-LC/LE) failed to cleave and ubiquitinate IMD, consistent the cell-culture data (Paquette, 2010).

Previous work has suggested that ubiquitination plays a critical role in IMD signaling in the Drosophila immune response. However, the molecular target(s) of ubiquitination and the mechanisms of its activation have remained elusive. The data presented in this study indicate that DIAP2 functions as the E3-ligase in the IMD pathway, a function usually attributed to the TRAF or, more recently, cIAP proteins in mammalian NF-κB signaling pathways (Bertrand, 2009). The E2 complex of Bend and Uev1a also appears to be involved in IMD ubiquitination. RNAi targeting of these K63-ubiquitinating enzymes reproducibly decreases IMD ubiquitination and the induction of target genes; however, the degree of inhibition is variable and never complete (Zhou, 2005). This study show that a third E2 enzyme, Effete, the Drosophila Ubc5 homolog, also plays a vital role in ubiquitination of IMD. RNAi treatment targeting Effete, in concert with Uev1a and/or Bendless reproducibly eliminated IMD ubiquitination and the induction of Diptericin (Paquette, 2010).

Several lines of evidence argue that IMD is the critical target for K63 ubiqutination in this pathway. First, IMD is by far the most robustly modified component that identified, and the only one in which modifications can be detected in whole animals. Second, the protein produced as a result of the imd1 mutation, which does not signal, is also not ubiquitinated. Third, a deletion mutant, IMDΔ5, is present that is not ubiquitinated and fails to signal. Finally, Thevenon (2009) recently identified the Drosophila ubiquitin-specific protease, USP36, as a negative regulator of IMD ubiquitination. Functionally, USP36 is able to remove K63-polyubiquitin chains from IMD, promoting K48-mediated polyubiquitination and degradation of IMD. Consistent with the current model, animals which overexpress USP36 show decreased levels of IMD ubiquitination and reduced IMD pathway activation as monitored by Diptericin RNA expression, and are susceptible to bacterial infection. Together, these data strongly argue that IMD is the critical substrate for K63-polyubiqutination in IMD pathway signaling, although other proteins may also be conjugated to lesser degree (as shown in this study for DIAP2) and could potentially substitute for IMD as the platform for ubiquitin conjugation. Interestingly, Xia (2009) recently showed that unanchored K63-polyubiquitin chains (i.e., ubiquitin chains that are not conjugated to a target substrate) are sufficient to activate the mammalian TAK1 and IKK kinase complexes. Furthermore, unanchored polyubiquitin chains are produced after stimulation of HEK cells with IL-1β (Xia, 2009). Thus, the presence (or absence) of K63-polyubiquitin chains may be more important than their conjugation substrate (Paquette, 2010).

K63-polyubiquitin chains are likely to serve as scaffolds to recruit the key kinases TAK1 and IKK in the IMD pathway. Both of these kinases include regulatory subunits with highly conserved K63-polyubiquitin binding domains. Drosophila TAB2, which complexes with TAK1, and the IKKγ subunit are predicted to contain conserved K63-polyubiquitin-binding domains. Thus, it is hypothesized that K63-polyubiquitin chains will recruit both the TAB2/TAK1 complex and the IKK complex, creating a local environment for optimal kinase activation and signal transduction; however, this aspect of the model is still speculative (Paquette, 2010).

Although mammalian caspase-8 and FADD are best known for their role in apoptosis, a growing body of literature indicates that these factors, along with RIP1 (which has some homology to IMD), also function in RIG-I signaling to NF-κB. In addition, caspase-8 has been implicated in NF-κB signaling in B cell, T cell, and LPS signaling. Cells, from mice or humans, lacking caspase-8 have defects in immune activation, cytokine production, and nuclear translocation of NF-κB p50/p65. Furthermore, recent evidence also shows that during mammalian NOD signaling the RIP2 protein is ubiquitinated in a cIAP1/2-dependent manner. Given that Drosophila homologs of RIP1, FADD cIAP1/2, and caspase-8 also function in the IMD pathway, the results presented in this study may help elucidate the mechanism by which these factors function in these mammalian immune signaling pathways (Paquette, 2010).

NF-kappaB shapes metabolic adaptation by attenuating Foxo-mediated lipolysis in Drosophila

Metabolic and innate immune signaling pathways have co-evolved to elicit coordinated responses. However, dissecting the integration of these ancient signaling mechanisms remains a challenge. Using Drosophila, this study uncovered a role for the innate immune transcription factor nuclear factor kappaB (NF-kappaB)/Relish in governing lipid metabolism during metabolic adaptation to fasting. Relish in fat bodies was found to be required to restrain fasting-induced lipolysis, and thus conserve cellular triglyceride levels during metabolic adaptation, through specific repression of ATGL/Brummer lipase gene expression in adipose tissue (fat body). Fasting-induced changes in Brummer expression and, consequently, triglyceride metabolism are adjusted by Relish-dependent attenuation of Foxo transcriptional activation function, a critical metabolic transcription factor. Relish limits Foxo function by influencing fasting-dependent histone deacetylation and subsequent chromatin modifications within the Bmm locus. These results highlight that the antagonism of Relish and Foxo functions are crucial in the regulation of lipid metabolism during metabolic adaptation, which may further influence the coordination of innate immune-metabolic responses (Molaei, 2019).

In order to explore mechanistic connections between NF-κB and various metabolic control networks, lipid homeostasis was assessed in Drosophila lacking functional Relish (utilizing the relE20 allele) independent of pathogenic infection. Relish is similar to mammalian p100/p105 NF-κB proteins and contains a Rel-homology domain, as well as ankyrin repeats (found in mammalian inhibitory IκBs). During ad libitum feeding, NF-κB/Rel mutant adult female flies (relE20/relE20) have significantly less organismal TAGs than genetically matched controls (either OreR or relE20 / + heterozygote flies, 7 days old post eclosion). However, these changes in TAG correlated with decreases in acute and chronic feeding and can be rescued by high-calorie (sugar) diets, suggesting that steady-state differences in lipid homeostasis are potentially driven by changes in feeding behavior. Assaying the major fat storage tissues, this study also found that TAG-level reduction in mutant animals correlates with strong, but variable, decreases in neutral lipid content in fat body and/or adipose but not in the intestine (Molaei, 2019).

Since ad libitum effects on lipid homeostasis appear to correspond with feeding deficits (i.e., they are potentially indirect), changes in fat metabolism were assayed in Relish mutant animals during metabolic adaptation to fasting. relE20/relE20 mutant flies were sensitive to starvation. Furthermore, Relish-deficient animals displayed accelerated decreases in organismal TAG levels during acute fasting (at time points before significant death occurred), while controls flies showed little to no change at the same time points (always comparing within sibling genotypes). These changes in TAG levels correlate with a strong reduction of stored neutral lipids and/or lipid droplets in carcass fat body, suggesting that there is enhanced or accelerated lipid breakdown during metabolic adaptation in these animals (Molaei, 2019).

The insect fat body acts as a key sensor to link nutrient status and energy expenditure and, as such, is the major lipid depository (mainly TAGs) that combines energy storage, de novo synthesis, and breakdown functions of vertebrate adipose and hepatic tissues. This tissue is also essential for Toll- and Relish-mediated innate immune responses to bacterial infection. Critically, the fat body is integral to properly balance lipid catabolism and anabolism in order to modulate organismal energy homeostasis (through lipid supply to other tissues) in response to metabolic or dietary adaptation. Expression of full-length Relish in the fat body (CGGal4>UAS-Rel) can rescue reduced starvation survival rates and the accelerated loss of lipid storage in relE20/relE20 mutant flies during fasting. These data suggest that Relish function in the fat body is required to acutely maintain lipid homeostasis throughout the course of metabolic adaptation (Molaei, 2019).

To further confirm an autonomous and potentially direct role for Relish in the regulation of fasting-mediated changes in lipid metabolism, Relish was specifically in the fat body (using multiple, independent RNAi lines: named UAS-RelRNAi KK and GD). Attenuating Relish in the fat body of female flies (CGGal4>UAS-RelRNAi) leads to starvation sensitivity, as well as accelerated loss of organismal TAG levels and fat body lipid storage in response to fasting; additional RNAi control experiments can be found in Figures S1F-S1J. As expected, fasting-induced changes in fat body lipid storage occur before significant decreases in total TAG levels of whole animals are observed. Phenotypes were confirmed with an independent fat body driver (PplGal4; Figures S2A-S2C), and similar results were found utilizing males but not when utilizing another immune cell (hemocyte) driver (HmlGal4). Conversely, over-expressing full-length Relish (CGGal4>UAS-Rel) or a constitutively active N-terminal fragment (CGGal4>UAS-Rel.68) in the fat body significantly limits fasting-mediated decreases in lipids compared to controls (Molaei, 2019).

Furthermore, attenuation of upstream components of the Relish signaling pathway phenocopies these Relish loss-of-function effects on lipid metabolism during metabolic adaption. Relish is governed by conserved regulators TAK1 and the IKK (IκB Kinase) signalosome (which consists of homologs of both IKKβ [Drosophila Ird5] and IKKgamma [Drosophila Kenny (key)]), while the apical caspase DREDD is required for the proteolytic cleavage of the IkB domain, allowing for nuclear translocation. Inhibiting Kenny or DREDD in the fat body of female flies (CGGal4>UAS-DREDDRNAior KeyRNAi) leads to starvation sensitivity, as well as accelerated loss of organismal TAG levels and fat body lipid storage in response to fasting (compared to control flies (CGGal4>w1118). Similarly, attenuating upstream receptors usually required for NF-κB/Relish activation (PGRP family members PGRP-LC [trans-membrane] or PGRP-LE ) also leads to decreased lipid storage in the fat body after starvation, suggesting that at least part of the canonical innate immune pathway is required for these metabolic phenotypes (Molaei, 2019).

Taken together, these data show that Relish can autonomously regulate lipid metabolism in the fat body during metabolic adaptation and suggest that Relish may direct specific metabolic responses to control the breakdown of TAGs (Molaei, 2019).

Properly balancing energy homeostasis in response to metabolic adaptation depends on the ability to coordinate storage, breakdown, and mobilization of lipids, primarily TAG. This coordination requires precise control of metabolic response networks, including changes in metabolic gene expression. To determine potential mechanisms by which the Relish transcription factor could direct cellular TAG metabolism during fasting, transcriptional changes of various metabolic genes related to lipid catabolism or anabolism were measured in Relish-deficient animals. Specifically, the lipase Brummer (Bmm) was identified as being regulated by Relish. Bmm is the Drosophila homolog of mammalian adipose TAG lipase (ATGL), an enzyme that is critical for lipolysis. Bmm plays an essential and conserved role in TAG breakdown and, subsequently, fatty acid mobilization, from lipid droplets in fat storage tissues during metabolic adaptation. In control flies, bmm transcription is mildly induced during acute fasting, but in relE20/relE20 mutant flies, bmm expression is strongly up-regulated (from whole flies). These Relish-dependent changes in bmm transcription appear unique, as Relish deficiency does not impact fasting-induced changes in other lipases such as Drosophila hormone-sensitive lipase (dHSL), Drosophila lipase 4 (dlip4), or CG5966. Similar results were found in dissected fat body with specific attenuation of NF-κB/Relish in the same tissue (CGGal4>UAS-RelRNAi KK). These results suggest that Relish function is required to repress or limit Bmm expression in response to metabolic adaptation and subsequently restrain TAG breakdown (Molaei, 2019).

To correlate this difference in gene expression to differences in lipolysis, an assay was employed to measure dynamic changes in lipid content based on the incorporation of radiolabeled glucose (14C-glucose) into lipids during fatty acid synthesis in vivo. After acute feeding (1.5 h) of a diet containing 14C-glucose, Relish-mutant flies show drastic changes in glucose incorporation (synthesis) that is likely due to changes in feeding behavior. 16 h of feeding minimized these differences in synthesis, and subsequent analysis of newly synthesized 14C-labeled lipids during fasting showed an increased rate of breakdown in relE20/relE20mutant flies (47% in mutants compared to 20% in controls). This change in the rate of breakdown correlated with increases in free fatty acids. Finally, genetically attenuating Bmm lipase in the fat body (CGGal4>UAS-BmmRNAi) can rescue the accelerated loss of TAGs in relE20/relE20 mutant flies during fasting (Molaei, 2019).

These data collectively reveal that Relish function is required to limit fasting-induced Bmm gene expression and subsequently restrain TAG lipolysis during metabolic adaptation (Molaei, 2019).

Following these results, the mechanism by which the Relish transcription factor can context-dependently attenuate Bmm expression was explored. Utilizing Cis-element OVERrepresentation (Clover) software, this study identified conserved NF-κB DNA binding motifs (κB sequence sites identified as GGG R N YYYYY) throughout the first intron of the Bmm locus. To assess binding, a previously characterized Relish antibody was used to perform chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP)-qPCR experiments. Relish binding in fed or fasted wild-type flies is significantly enriched (compared to immunoprecipitations using serum controls) at binding motif(s) approximately 1 kb downstream from the transcriptional start site. This putative Bmm regulatory region was cloned upstream of RFP (red fluorescent protein) in order to generate in vivo expression reporters. While the unaltered region only slightly influenced RFP reporter activity in fed or fasted conditions, eliminating the Relish binding site leads to minimal enhanced reporter activity under fed conditions and strong increases in RFP activity during fasting (primarily in the fat body of the carcass and head). Thus, this Relish-binding site within the first Bmm intron acts as an important regulatory region to limit induced gene expression (Molaei, 2019).

Relish binding at this region is similar in fed and fasted states. No evidence was found of classical Relish transcriptional activation function during acute fasting. First, innate immune target gene expression (Drosomycin and Diptericin) and Relish DNA binding to innate immune gene promoters (Diptericin) were not changed during fasting. Second, metabolic adaptation did not significantly alter nuclear localization of Relish in the fat body. Thus, in order to explore how Relish limits or represses fasting-induced Bmm expression, despite its constitutive binding to DNA and distinct from its transcriptional activation function, histone and/or chromatin changes were assessed in Relish-deficient flies. Histone deacetylases (HDACs) have been shown to accumulate in the nucleus during metabolic adaptation, influencing gene expression in a fasting-dependent manner through chromatin regulation and transcription factor deacetylation. Furthermore, previous studies have linked interactions of NF-κB transcription factors and HDACs with NF-κB-dependent transcriptional repression. It was thus hypothesized that Relish might repress Bmm gene expression through influencing histone modifications during fasting, when histone modifiers (such as HDACs) in the nucleus are elevated. Using ChIP-qPCR, histone 3 lysine 9 acetylation (H3K9ac, a post-translational modification generally associated with transcriptional activation) was monitored at this Bmm regulatory region in Relish-deficient animals and controls. During feeding, there is no change in H3K9ac enrichment at this locus between genotypes. However, during fasting relE20/relE20 mutant flies display a significant enrichment (compared to controls) of H3K9ac at the site of Relish binding, indicative of promoter or enhancer activation. Analysis of modEncode ChIP sequencing databases associated with histone modifications (in adult female flies) also revealed that this site is generally enriched for other modifications linked to gene expression regulation (such as H3K27ac, H3K4me3, and H3K4me1), further indicating that this locus is an important regulatory region. Additionally, inhibiting a single HDAC in the fat body (Rpd3 [Drosophila HDAC1]; CGGal4>UAS-Rpd3RNAi) can drive small, but significant, increases in fasting-induced Bmm transcription (from whole flies; Figure 3D) and accelerate fat body lipid usage (Molaei, 2019).

Taken together, these data show that Relish can bind to a putative regulatory region within the Bmm locus during both feeding and fasting. In response to fasting, the presence of Relish can influence fasting-dependent histone acetylation and chromatin changes that are consistent with transcriptional repression (Molaei, 2019).

The unique ability of Relish to limit or repress fasting-induced Bmm transcription correlates with attenuation of H3K9ac at Bmm regulatory regions. It was thus hypothesized that Relish binding to the Bmm locus leads to fasting-dependent chromatin changes, which subsequently limit transcription activation function of other factors that are induced during metabolic adaptation. Various metabolic transcription factors were assessed and Foxo, a critical regulator of lipolysis and catabolism in general, was shown to be required for Relish-dependent changes in ATGL/Bmm expression during metabolic adaptation. Firstly, Foxo (of which there is a single ortholog in Drosophila) is activated during metabolic adaptation and required for fasting-induced ATGL/Bmm expression across taxa, including in the fly fat body. Full Relish/Foxo double mutant animals (using the foxo24 allele) are synthetic lethal during metamorphosis (relE20, foxo24/relE20). However, simply reducing Foxo gene dose in NF-κB/Relish mutant flies (relE20, foxo24/relE20) completely rescues fasting-dependent increases in Bmm expression, starvation survival rates, and increases in lipolysis (accelerated loss of lipid storage) in Relish-deficient flies during metabolic adaptation. Molecular analysis of Foxo transcription activation function also showed that Foxo binding to the Bmm promoter is slightly, but significantly, elevated in Relish-deficient flies only during fasting. Furthermore, attenuating Foxo specifically in the fat body (CGGal4>UAS-FoxoRNAi) rescues the enhanced depletion of lipid storage and starvation sensitivity associated with relE20/relE20 mutant flies during fasting. Foxo transcription activation function is thus required for Relish-dependent changes in lipid metabolism, highlighting that Relish/Foxo integration and antagonism is critical to maintain TAG metabolism throughout the course of metabolic adaptation (Molaei, 2019).

In summary, this study has uncovered a role for the innate immune transcription factor Relish in governing lipid metabolism during metabolic adaptation to fasting utilizing Drosophila. Relish is required to restrain fasting-induced lipolysis and thus conserve cellular TAG levels and promote survival during metabolic adaptation, through specific repression of Bmm lipase gene induction in the fat body/adipose. Fasting-induced changes in Bmm expression and TAG metabolism are adjusted by Relish-dependent attenuation of Foxo transcriptional activation function, likely through regulation of histone acetylation (Molaei, 2019).

These findings thus suggest that association of Relish with histone modifiers (and subsequent changes in chromatin accessibility at gene regulatory regions) functions to control or limit the induced level of certain metabolic genes. Indeed, a few previous studies have highlighted that mammalian p65/RelA or Drosophila Relish can negatively regulate gene expression, including innate immune targets, through changes in chromatin. This modification of chromatin and repression of gene expression likely occurs through recruitment of HDACs (HDAC 1/2) to promoter or enhancer regions of target genes, thus influencing histone acetylation, chromatin remodeling, and function of NF-κB itself or other transcriptional activators. This study shows that Relish can bind a metabolic target gene during both feeding and fasting but that uniquely during fasting, it can influence H3K9 acetylation levels at this target gene and subsequently limit transcriptional activation function of positive regulators (such as Foxo). This allows NF-κB transcription factors precise control of specific metabolic gene expression, potentially through metabolic changes in HDAC nuclear localization, in a context-dependent manner. To this end, this study has uncovered other metabolic target genes of Relish (in unique tissues with unique metabolic functions) regulated through similar mechanisms (Molaei, 2019).

It remains unclear whether Relish binding to metabolic target genes in fed states, independent of metabolic stress, can influence gene expression and physiology. However, this may represent a constitutive or steady-state function of NF-κB (described in mammals) and thus could act as a priming mechanism that promotes the maintenance of metabolic homeostasis during acute stress (such as fasting) (Molaei, 2019).

While these data show that NF-κB can direct lipid metabolism independent of infection, Foxo (as well as HDACs) is integrated with innate immune responses through a variety of mechanisms. Additional experimental evidence suggests that Relish and, perhaps, Relish-Foxo antagonism and Bmm gene regulation manipulate TAG metabolism after a chronic systemic bacterial infection. It is thus possible that NF-κB-dependent regulation of TAG catabolism, by limiting Foxo-mediated lipolysis, also plays a role in governing innate immune homeostasis in response to pathogenic infections (Molaei, 2019).


All three Relish transcripts contain both Rel and ankyrin domains, since hybridization of Northern blots with probes from both domains show identical results. To further characterize the maternal transcript, five cDNA clones were isolated from an ovarian library. These clones are identical to those from the adult and mbn-2 cell libraries except for various degrees of truncation at the 5' end. The longest clone has an insert of 2.7 kb and thus must be near full-length. 5'-rapid amplification of cDNA end products from 0- to 2-h-old embryos show the same sequence and terminate near the 5' end of this clone. It is concluded that the maternal transcript differs from the other two Relish transcripts at the 5' end only, and that if there is a unique 5' exon it must be very short. The maternal transcript is too short to encode the N-terminal part of the open reading frame, and has an alternative translation start site (Dushay, 1996).

Relish maps near the end of the 85C region on the right arm of the third chromosome. This is a well-characterized region of the genome, covered by contiguous genomic walks around the oskar and pumilio genes, as well as by genomic clones around neuralized. Cosmid clones were obtained from the relevant interval and they were probed with the Relish cDNA clone 5.3 (Dushay, 1996). In this way, Relish could be mapped to a cosmid, cos 1698, between pumilio and neuralized. 10.8 kb around the Relish gene were sequenced and several cDNA clones corresponding to the transcripts of this region were isolated. The genomic organization in this region turns out to be complex, with overlapping transcripts from at least four different genes. Twenty cDNA clones from the Relish gene have been described (Dushay, 1996). They are all collinear, and there is no evidence for alternative splicing of the Relish gene or for the use of alternative polyadenylation sites. Nevertheless, at least three different Relish transcripts of 2.7, 3.1, and 3.4 kb can be detected on Northern blots (Dushay, 1996). The 2.7 kb transcript is expressed in females and in early embryos, presumably as a maternally contributed transcript. This conclusion is supported by the observation that Relish is expressed in nurse cells in the ovary, as detected by in situ hybridization (Hedengren, 1999).

The 3.1 kb transcript is very strongly induced in infected flies, whereas the 3.4 kb transcript is constitutively present. 5' RACE has been used to sequence and accurately map the 5' ends of these transcripts, as well as of a fourth, 3.5 kb transcript of low abundance. The latter transcript can also occasionally be detected as a faint band on Northern blots. These data show that the different Relish transcripts originate from one minor and three major transcription start sites that are arranged in tandem. The entire Relish transcription unit is situated inside an intron of the previously described Nmdmc gene (Price, 1993), which encodes a putative NAD-dependent methylenetetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase-methenyltetrahydrofolate cyclohydrolase (Hedengren, 1999).

This is a bifunctional enzyme involved in tetrahydrofolate metabolism, with no obvious relationship to immune responses. From the Nmdmc gene, four different cDNA clones have been isolated, all of them representing the same splice form (transcript A) with a first exon 2.4 kb upstream of Relish, spliced to two exons downstream of the Relish gene. The first exon of this transcript differs from that of the previously published Nmdmc transcript (transcript B; Price, 1993) for which the first exon could be mapped to a position 1.2 kb upstream of Relish. Thus, the Nmdmc gene has two alternative splice forms, both of them spanning the region that contains the four Relish transcripts. The protein products encoded by the two transcripts are essentially identical. In transcript B, the first exon is noncoding, whereas transcript A encodes an additional six N-terminal amino acid residues (Hedengren, 1999).


Amino Acids - 817

Structural Domains

Relish contains both a Rel homology domain and an IkappaB-like domain with six ankyrin repeats. A phylogenetic reconstruction of the possible relationship between the different Rel homology domains shows that Relish may have branched off from other Rel proteins at a very early stage. The sequences of the ankyrin repeats are also quite different from those of other IkappaB-like proteins, and they are about equally close to the ankyrin repeats in the Notch, ankyrin and IkappaB families. As in other Rel proteins, a putative nuclear localization sequence is found at the C-terminal end of the Rel homology domain, and the ankyrin repeats are followed by an acidic, PEST-like sequence. PEST sequences are rich in proline, glutamic acid, serine and threonine residues, and they have been implicated in protein turnover (Dushay, 1996).

Relish : Evolutionary Homologs | Regulation | Developmental Biology | Effects of Mutation | References

date revised: 17 October 2021

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