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Keywords:

  • Drosophila melanogaster;
  • patterning;
  • development;
  • behavior;
  • physiology;
  • Drosophila eye;
  • model organism;
  • Genetics Society of America;
  • Fly meeting

Beautiful San Diego, a city named after Saint Didacus (Spanish: San Diego de Alcalá), the eighth largest city of United States, was the location of the 52nd Annual Drosophila Research Conference. The city of San Diego boasts a spectacular landscape with miles of oceanfront beaches, bayfront tidelands, canyons, mountains, and deserts. The meeting was sponsored by the Genetics Society of America (GSA) and was organized by Daniel Barbash (Cornell University, New York), Giovanni Bosco (University of Arizona), and Leslie Griffith (Brandeis University, Massachusetts). This annual meeting brings together basic research scientists from all over the world, who study the genetic model organism, Drosophila melanogaster, the common fruit fly. This year's meeting was a huge success with ∼900 poster presentations, 156 platform sessions, 14 plenary sessions, 12 workshops, and 16 exhibits.

The opening session started off with the past president (2010) of the GSA, Scott Hawley (Stowers Institute for Medical Research, Missouri) introducing the newest journal of the GSA, G3. This journal will be a place to publish important genetics research that is fundamental, sequence-based, screen-based, etc. He continued by presenting the GSA medal for outstanding contributions in the field of genetics in the last 15 years to John Carlson (Yale University, Connecticut) for his work on the genetics of olfaction. John Carlson, a Nobel laureate, is responsible for solving the mystery of smell and has been a pioneer in the field of olfaction. He has been instrumental in discovering a family of 60 odorant receptors expressed in the antennae and the maxillary palps of Drosophila. The Larry Sandler Memorial Award was presented to Daniel Babcock (Dr. Michael Galko Lab, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Texas) on his dissertation on nociception in Drosophila larvae. He began by defining allodynia as a lowered threshold for a noxious stimulus (a noxious stimulus is an actual or potential tissue damaging event) and hyperalgesia as an exaggerated response to a noxious stimulus. These are useful conditions to help foster injury protection. However, if they persist, they can be debilitating. The traditional view has accepted that both allodynia and hyperalgesia occur by the same mechanism. However, through an elegant series of experiments, his research showed that these two conditions are separate. They elicited tissue damage with an ultraviolet (UV) crosslinker without affecting viability. Twenty-four hours after UV exposure, the epidermis had marked damage, while the neurons responsible for nociception were unaffected. This model caused both allodynia and hyperalgesia in the larvae. Blocking apoptosis in the epidermal cells following the UV stimulus blocks allodynia. Therefore, the dying epidermal cells release some factor that causes allodynia. They found that flies mutant for eiger (egr, Drosophila tumor necrosis factor, TNF) cannot develop allodynia with UV damage. Of interest, egr mutants did not have any effect on the hyperalgesia response. This was the first genetic dissection of allodynia and hyperalgesia.

The historical lecture panel of this conference discussed behavioral studies in Drosophila. Michael Rosbash (Brandeis University, Massachusetts) discussed the overall history of this area of research. He discussed how Seymour Benzer, Martin Heisenberg, and Bill Pak started the whole field. He discussed the work on circadian rhythm, starting with the period (per) gene, finding alleles that made the circadian rhythm faster, slower, or atypical. He talked about how his lab cloned per and how a debt is owed to S. Benzer and R.J. Konopka, as well as to recombinant DNA technology, for our understanding of the genetic regulation of circadian rhythm. Stephen F. Goodwin (University of Oxford, UK) discussed courtship behaviors in Drosophila. He talked about the fruitless (fru) allele behavior of males, and how it was cloned and had a unique staining pattern in males, but not in females. Gynandromorph analysis allowed them to identify parts of the male brain that were involved in mating. They found that by expressing Fru in the female brain, the female will attempt to mate with females. Scott Waddell (University of Massachusetts Medical School) talked about memory in flies. He discussed different methods for training flies for aversion and attraction. They have performed this training in a large screen format all the way down to single fly training under a microscope to allow for recording cell activity during aversion training. The mushroom body (MB) in the Drosophila brain has been identified to be involved in learning and memory, as well as neurons that innervate the MB.

The first plenary session began with presentation of the Drosophila image award. The judges of the Drosophila image award this year decided to present two separate awards for still images and movies. Jai Y. Yu (Research Institute of Molecular Pathology, Austria) won the still image award for a picture showing the genetic dissection and visualization of the Drosophila courtship neuronal network. The winner for the best movie in Drosophila research was Mollie K. Manier (Syracuse University, New York) for showing fluorescent sperm in the female sperm-storage organ of Drosophila. To see the image or movie, and the other finalists, go to http://drosophila-images.org/2011.shtml.1

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Figure 1. Cover page of the abstract book of the 52nd Annual Drosophila Research Conference held at San Diego, CA from March 30 to April 3, 2011. Courtesy: GSA.

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Linda Partridge (University College London, UK) started the research portion of the plenary session by discussing her work on lifespan in Drosophila. Extension of lifespan by loss of chico in Drosophila is similar to that seen with daf-2 mutants in C. elegans, both of which are in the insulin/insulin-like growth factor (IGF) pathways. So she proposed that an evolutionary conservation exists in the insulin/IGF pathway for extending lifespan in organisms. This pathway is a nutrient-sensing network. Rapamycin, the Target of Rapamycin (TOR) inhibitor, also extends lifespan in Drosophila by increased autophagy and reduced protein synthesis. Extended lifespan can be observed in many species by diet restriction. By putting flies on a diet restriction (DR), they experience decreased fecundity and increased lifespan. They found that it is not the reduced calories but specifically reduction in amino acids that cause this effect with DR. Interestingly, methionine supplementation restores fecundity in this model but has no effect on lifespan. Therefore, this was the first dissection of changes in fecundity and lifespan, indicating that they are not dependent on each other. Paul A. Garrity (Brandeis University, Massachusetts) has been working on the molecular and cellular mechanisms for thermal sensation. He found that the Transient receptor potential A1 (TrpA1) channel is required for larval thermotaxis (a behavior in which an organism directs its locomotion up or down a gradient of temperature) in an RNAi screen against ion channels. Larvae without TrpA1 failed to avoid higher temperatures. They found that adults also use this channel for warmth sensation as well. There are four neurons underneath the antennae that respond to temperature. The TrpA1 channel is a very robust ion channel, and using P{GawB}elavC155 for pan-neuronal expression of TrpA1, caused seizures when the Drosophila are heat shocked. Interestingly, the D. mojavensis TrpA1 has a higher threshold level for temperature (31°C vs. 27.4°C), which matches with the thermal preference of these desert-dwelling flies. Mammalian TrpA1 is activated by noxious stimuli, not heat, and they respond to electrophiles, like acrolein, tear gas, or wasabi. When electrophiles were given to Drosophila in a sucrose solution, they sensed it and did not drink it after the first dose. However, TrpA1 mutants will continue to drink the electrophile solution. TrpA1 is expressed on chemoreceptors, which get activated when they are exposed to electrophiles. However, this neuronal activation does not occur in the TrpA1 mutants. Of interest, expressing TrpA1 in other neurons makes them responsive to electrophiles. Brian P. Lazzaro (Cornell University, New York) is interested in traits related to immune defenses. He proposed that there might be physiological processes that are outside of the canonical immune response that can contribute to variations in immune defenses. For instance, mating compromises defense against infection, as mated females have a higher likelihood of dying from an infection, compared with age-matched virgins. This is because mated females are less able to activate their immune systems. This effect of mating lasts for at least 24 hours post mating. Interestingly, this difference requires an intact ovary and active transfer of sperm and seminal fluid from the males. Therefore, it appears that there is a negative relationship between reproduction and the immune system. He wanted to know if there were other physiological conditions that impact the immune response. So he changed the diets of the flies and found that flies switched to a high sugar diet had difficulties in managing infections, which was dose dependent on the sugar content of their diet. However, this was not seen in different genotype flies (12 different wild-type strains). To fully understand the immune system, or any complex trait, we need to understand these interactions. Larry Goldstein (University of California, San Diego) spoke on his work on vesicle movement. He is interested in Alzheimer's disease (AD) and believes that the prevailing thought on the amyloid cascade in AD progression is not right. He pointed out that neurons are big. Motor neurons in humans can be a meter long, and it takes 20 days for motor-based movement to transport vesicles down that length. Mutants that affect motor function can effectively block (clog) the axons. Making too much amyloid precursor protein (APP) in Drosophila will block the axons, and this is dependent upon the C-terminus of the APP molecule. They used a semi-automated tracking system to assay axonal transport in heterozygotes for genes involved in transport. He found that control velocity distributions are non-normal and multi-modal. They and others found that the velocity of Kinesin-1 in vitro does not vary with motor number, but velocity of Myosin-II does vary with motor number. They believe that Kinesin-1 processivity in vivo is much slower than in vitro. The Drosophila homolog of GSK3, Shaggy (Sgg), represses Kinesin-1 activity. Presenilin (Psn) also represses Kinesin-1. Therefore, he believes that the APP molecule is what poisons motor transport, thus leading to the plaques. Trisha Wittkopp (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor) talked about her investigation of the genetic and developmental basis of evolution. She uses Drosophila pigmentation as a model for evolutionary diversity. There are three pigments: black, brown, and yellow. The yellow (y) mutants lack the black pigment, whereas ebony (e) mutants lack the yellow pigment, and tan (t) mutants lack the brown pigment. Divergent gene expression correlates with divergent pigmentation across the species she has studied. By using two D. virilis strains, she was able to determine that the genes responsible for pigmentation are not incredibly polygenic. Loci linked to the t and e genes explained most (76–87%) of the variation in the backcross progeny of these strains. So is there a developmental basis to the divergent pigmentation? They found that the e gene has differences in cis-regulation but not t. Igor Zhimulev (ICBFM, Russia) discussed his work on chromosomal organization in Drosophila. He inserted reference transposons that caused the formation of a new cytological band under electron microscopy. This helped to molecularly define the boundaries for 13 different interbands. He found that the interbands have the smallest degree of compaction compared with euchromatin and heterochromatin bands. He concluded that the estimated banding in FlyBase is not as accurate as their determined banding patterns.

DROSOPHILA MODELS OF HUMAN DISEASE

  1. Top of page
  2. DROSOPHILA MODELS OF HUMAN DISEASE
  3. PHYSIOLOGY
  4. BEHAVIOR
  5. GAMETOGENESIS
  6. CELL DEATH
  7. EYE DEVELOPMENT
  8. POSTER AWARDS
  9. Acknowledgements

As is already evident, researchers are always trying to use the incredibly powerful research model of Drosophila to study human diseases. Jamie Kramer (Radboud University, Netherlands) discussed their work on epigenetic control of learning and memory. Mutations in the human euchromatin histone methyltransferase 1 (EHMT1) causes a type of intellectual disability. Mutants of the Drosophila homolog of EHMT1, G9a, are normal in many aspects, but have a change in peripheral dendrite morphology. The G9a mutant type IV dendrites have a decrease in higher order branching. G9a mutant larvae have an aberrant locomotor behavior; they crawl in a branched pattern, rather than linear. G9a mutants also have nonassociative learning deficits. Adult G9a mutants have problems with courtship memory. So G9a is a regulator of intelligence and memory in flies, as well as mice and humans, and causes histone 3 dimethylation on lysine residue 9 in euchromatin. They performed ChIP-seq to identify where G9a methylates in the genome. Many of the targets of G9a were involved in neuronal development, learning, memory, locomotor activity, etc., in other words, genes that can promote the observed phenotypes. April K. Marrone (Max Planck Institute, Germany) discussed their work on a muscular dystrophy model they use that has mutations in Dystrophin (Dys) and Dystroglycan (Dg). They performed the first in vivo screen to identify genetic modifiers in this model. Dys and Dg mutants responded to aging and carbohydrate stress. Dystrophic flies have altered cellular homeostasis under stress at 29°C, including seizures. They found that Dys is required for dystrophic seizures to occur. Of interest, loss of Dys at the neuromuscular junctions rescues dystrophic seizures. Sarah Oikemus (University of Massachusetts Medical School) talked about her work characterizing the gene that is responsible for the development of ataxia telangiectasia (A-T). This gene is ATM in mammals and telomere fusion (tefu) in flies, and both are members of the PI3K family. The tefu mutants exhibit diverse cellular and developmental defects, but survive to adulthood for only a couple of days. The tefu mutant telomeres activate p53-dependent apoptosis. They found that chromosome end joining works through the alternative, Ligase4 (Lig4) and mutagen sensitive 308 (mus308) -dependent method. p53 mutation reduced the amount of apoptosis seen in development, but it did not reduce them all. Mutation in Lig4, p53, and mus308 rescues all adult phenotypes, including suppressing the ataxia movement defects and extending lifespan to a month. Renee Read (Salk Institute, California) has been working on the glia kinome to create a Drosophila model for human gliomas. When she drove pan-glial expression of constitutively active forms of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFRact), Ras and PI3K (PI3Kact), they caused a massive over-proliferation of glial cells. Mosaic Analysis with a Repressible Cell Marker (MARCM) clones of EGFRact and PI3Kact generate clones of invasive glial cells. This cannot be recapitulated by downstream components of these two pathways, indicating that other pathways are being activated by PI3K and EGFR and not their typical downstream genes. She performed an RNAi screen for the Drosophila kinome for potential interactors and suppressors. She found 21 novel modifier kinases that have 33 human orthologs, of which a fair number of them show up-regulation and mutations in human gliomas. She screened for these genes in human glioma cell lines and found 10 kinases with definitive effects. She found the Rio kinases to be expressed highly in glioma tissue. Of interest, by reducing Rio kinase in these glioma cells, she saw elevated apoptosis. Clive Wilson (University of Oxford, UK) talked about his work on the secretory secondary cells of the Drosophila accessory gland. The accessory gland secretes proteases and protease inhibitors that capacitate the sperm. They wanted to determine if this gland can be used as a model for the human prostate. They found that secondary cells in the accessory gland grow and sporadically lose contact with the basement membrane upon mating. The size of the cells and the nucleus gets bigger if the males mate. Rarely, they would find secondary cells that have naturally delaminated and migrated. Bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling promotes growth and delamination of the secondary cells. This activation of BMP is essential to prevent mated females from remating. This effect of BMPs in the accessory gland is similar to its effect in the prostate, causing growth and inhibiting cell–cell or cell–matrix adhesion. Theresa Reimels (Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York) discussed her work with Rabex-5 as a possible tumor suppressor. Leukemia is the most common form of cancer in children. Rabex-5 restricts Ras signaling. Loss of Rabex-5 increases Ras signaling and makes huge larvae with melanotic masses, indicating an excessive immune response. They hypothesized that Rabex-5 is a tumor suppressor in the hematopoietic system. Rabex-5 loss causes hemocyte over-proliferation, both in circulation and in the lymph gland. Crystal cells were also increased in number along with lamellocyte differentiation. However, this was only seen in the homozygous mutant for Rabex-5, as the RNAi knockdown of Rabex-5 specifically in hemocytes showed no phenotype. Girish C. Melkani (San Diego State University, California) introduced Drosophila as a model for amyloid-induced cardiac dysfunction. Cardiac failure is the second leading cause of death in Huntington's disease. He developed this model to identify how the Htt-polyQ (with 72 Qs) transgene of the huntingtin (htt) gene affects cardiac function. The polyQ transgene induced cardiac dilation and arrhythmia, which leads to depressed cardiac function. There was also a structural aggregation of amyloid and disorganized myofibrils, which ultimately results in the reduced lifespan of the transgenic flies. J. Robert Manak (University of Iowa) discussed his work on the prickle (pk) gene in flies and how it is involved in epilepsy in both flies and humans. The pk gene is involved in planar cell polarity and has been shown to be important for appropriate nervous system development. A collaborator found that pk mutations in humans were associated with myoclonic epilepsy. In a climbing-after-vortexing seizure assay, pk homozygous mutant flies do not recover for a long time, while heterozygotes have an intermediate phenotype compared with homozygous mutants and wild types. Of interest, the seizures can be completely stopped by treating the flies with a drug used for epilepsy in humans. Matthew Callan (University of Arizona) demonstrated that Fmr1 regulates neurogenesis in the Drosophila model of the Fragile X syndrome. Fmr1 mutant clones contain significantly more cells compared with wild-type clones. These extra cells are actually extra neurons, which are not lost and survive into adulthood. Fmr1 causes neuroblasts to undergo early exit from quiescence. Fmr1 is expressed in both neuronal and glial lineages in early neurogenesis. He determined that Fmr1 is required in both stem cells and glia to control neuroblast reactivation by using RNAi for Fmr1.

PHYSIOLOGY

  1. Top of page
  2. DROSOPHILA MODELS OF HUMAN DISEASE
  3. PHYSIOLOGY
  4. BEHAVIOR
  5. GAMETOGENESIS
  6. CELL DEATH
  7. EYE DEVELOPMENT
  8. POSTER AWARDS
  9. Acknowledgements

Drosophila has long been used to study physiology and processes related to physiology. Mara N. Stewart (University of Colorado, Boulder) discussed their work with Drosophila as a model for drug discovery to find potential anti-cancer drugs. They used gamma-irradiated p53 or grapes (g, aka Chk1) mutant larvae, and collected them in food with an individual small molecule. They assayed the eclosion rate to determine if the drug had an effect. Any vial that showed lower eclosion rates were considered as a hit, meaning that the drug can work effectively with radiation therapy to prevent growth. They screened molecules from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and found three already proven anti-cancer molecules, as a positive result. Additionally, they found three protein synthesis inhibitors. They performed mouse xenografts with tumor cells, and found one of their protein synthesis inhibitors did reduce tumor load in addition to irradiation, indicating that their Drosophila screen is an effective model. Greg Beitel (Northwestern University, Illinois) discussed their work on a hypercapnia model. Hypercapnia, also known as hypercarbia, is a condition where there is too much carbon dioxide (CO2) in the blood. They raised flies at 13% CO2 and performed microarray analysis on 5-day-old males and females. They found that ∼140 genes were up-regulated, while ∼200 were down-regulated. They performed a similar experiment in S2 cells and found similar responses. Of interest, it appears that hypercapnia induced a reduction in immune system genes, like anti-microbial peptides. This effect was not through the processing of Relish (Rel). Interestingly, in macrophages, IL-6 and TNF are also suppressed in hypercapnia, suggesting the role of CO2 on the immune system is more widespread. When you infect flies in hypercapnia, they die faster. They used high throughput RNAi screening for genes and drugs. They found one molecule that will increase Diptericin (Dpt) in hypercapnia. They found a gene they call the CO2 response factor, which is a transcription factor. Mutant flies for the CO2 response factor live as long with infection and hypercapnia, indicating that this is a real physiologic pathway regulating the immune response, not just adverse effects of hypercapnia. Karen Ocorr (Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, California) demonstrated that the seizure (sei) gene is the Drosophila homolog for the hERG channel in humans. The sei mutants show defects in heart pumping abilities, as well as irregular contraction intervals. These mutants have abnormal depolarizations, including early after depolarizations. This is similar to what is seen in the wild-type heart that has age-related remodeling. Therefore, there is an electrical and structural remodeling in the sei mutant heart that appears to make the heart remodel faster. Chi-Kuang Yao (Baylor College of Medicine, Texas) discussed the source of calcium required for synaptic vesicle endocytosis. The calcium channel, Flower (Fwe), provides calcium for synaptic vesicle endocytosis. This gene was so named based on the flowering-like growth of the synapses seen in the mutants. They proved that the Fwe channel can conduct calcium, and an E79Q mutation reduced its ability to do so. The fwe mutants display a rundown of excitatory junction potentials after repetitive stimulation, and the E79Q mutation rescues this rundown. This indicates that the channel has the ability to transport calcium leading to synaptic vesicle endocytosis. Mutation of fwe also leads to synaptic growth through calcium transport, not by means of decreased vesicle endocytosis, hence it's flowering phenotype. Joel Rawson (University Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio) talked about a project in their laboratory looking at diet and nervous system function. The E49-gal4 line expresses in the neurons that innervate the CM9 muscles that control rostrum elongation of the proboscis. They found that diet modulates neurotransmission in these neurons. However, they found no change in the behavioral response of proboscis extension when applying sucrose. Over-expression of a dominant negative Glued (GluedDN) in all motor neurons caused a decrease in fly lifespan. Using the E49-gal4 driver to express GluedDN in the CM9 neurons caused a rapid decline in motor function. Kimberly Kerr (University of Massachusetts Medical School) pointed out that glia are important partners in synapses. They used the larval neuromuscular junction as their model. Peripheral glia transiently interacts with the neuromuscular junction, extending and retracting extensions up and along the boutons and arbors of the neuromuscular junction. They found that reversed polarity (repo) mutants had less glial extensions and phenocopied a wingless (wg) mutant. They found Wg is expressed in the peripheral glia. Wg is important for the synaptic machinery and neuromuscular junction physiology.

BEHAVIOR

  1. Top of page
  2. DROSOPHILA MODELS OF HUMAN DISEASE
  3. PHYSIOLOGY
  4. BEHAVIOR
  5. GAMETOGENESIS
  6. CELL DEATH
  7. EYE DEVELOPMENT
  8. POSTER AWARDS
  9. Acknowledgements

Krystyna M. Keleman (The Research Institute of Molecular Pathology, Austria) discussed how a naturally occurring courtship behavior is mediated by means of dopaminergic neurons. Males learn to focus their mating effort on receptive virgins versus nonreceptive mated females, and they wanted to determine how they do this. This type of learning works by means of Or67d, which is a receptor for a pheromone (cVa) that is transferred from the male to the female upon mating. They found that cVa is required during the receptivity test, while nonreceptivity behavior of the female is required during the training of the male. The learning of the males is not completely dependent on the presence of cVa, but if you activate dopamine neurons, it can mimic nonreceptivity training in the males. The dopamine signal that determines courtship learning requires the aSP13 neurons, which can activate neurons in the tip of the gamma neurons of the mushroom body. Julien Sejourne (National Center for Scientific Research, France) conditions 30 flies at a time with an odor and electric shock or an odor alone. This is an automated process that then tests the flies' choice between the two odors. He identified that the MB-V2 neurons, which are efferent to the MB, are part of the odorant learning response. MB-V2 output blockade during retrieval impairs 24 hr memory, but is dispensable for appetitive memory retrieval. These neurons are cholinergic and respond to odors. This response to odors is lowered in the flies receiving electric shock training. Yufeng Pan (Janelia Farm, Virginia) demonstrated that fru is both necessary and sufficient for all male courtship behavior, while doublesex (dsx) has slight decrementing behavioral control. They used temperature-gated TrpA1 channels to activate all fruM or all dsx neurons, which can turn on all male courtship behavior in the absence of a female, including courtship song and ejaculation. The sequence of the courtship behaviors is maintained but still requires FRUM function. Males with active fruM neurons prefer to mate with conspecific females when put in a competitive assay. Courtship in fruM null males reveals a vision-based courtship pathway. He found that FRUM is largely dispensable for execution of behavior, but required for mate recognition. Sean M. Boyle (University of California, Riverside) discussed their approach to address two major challenges to understand olfactory coding: it's a systems level challenge and the massive volatile chemical space. Their approach used an in silico method, which was optimized with 12 known odorant receptor (OR) subtypes. They gathered a vast odor library and made a systems level view of OR-odor interactions. Their system was able to identify prolonged activators, that maintained OR activity even 300 sec after the withdrawal of the activator. These prolonged activators are so potently stimulating the ORs that they cannot recognize another odor for approximately 2 min after prolonged activator exposure. These prolonged activators can disrupt the odor-tracking/preference of larvae. They believe that these long-acting activators can be used in pest management in the future.

GAMETOGENESIS

  1. Top of page
  2. DROSOPHILA MODELS OF HUMAN DISEASE
  3. PHYSIOLOGY
  4. BEHAVIOR
  5. GAMETOGENESIS
  6. CELL DEATH
  7. EYE DEVELOPMENT
  8. POSTER AWARDS
  9. Acknowledgements

Li He (Johns Hopkins University, Maryland) showed that follicle cells undergo periodic contractions in egg stages 9–10. This is due to a periodic accumulation of myosin in these cells with an average peak of accumulation approximately every 6 minutes. Of interest, the actin filaments stay constant at this time. This correlates with the basal area of the follicle cells. The basal area correlates with the anterior–posterior (AP) length, which means that this function might allow for the AP stretching of the follicle cells. This is similar to the apical constriction seen during embryo gastrulation that is responsible for cell shape changes at that time. They used cytochalasin D, which destabilizes actin, to block elongation and ionomycin, a calcium ionophore, to activate the actin-myosin complex, leading to faster elongation. They believe that basal contraction might be a phenomenon used in many tissues to promote tissue elongation and different tubular shapes in those tissues. Jianjun Sun (Carnegie Institute for Science, Maryland) discussed the development of the Drosophila female reproductive glands, spermatheca and paraovaria. Lozenge (Lz) is expressed in the precursors of female reproductive glands in the female genital disc, which was confirmed by using the G-TRACE method (a lineage tracing technique that uses Gal4 for real-time and clonal expression using fluorescent reporters) using Lz-gal4. They also found that Hormone receptor-like in 39 (Hr39) is essential for female reproductive gland development. During pupariam formation, Hr39 turns on Lz for tissue specification. Hr39 mutant cells fail to differentiate into reproductive glands. Hr39 is required for precursor cell proliferation. Hr39 RNAi reduces gland cell differentiation. By making ectopic Hr39 clones in other imaginal discs, the clonal tissue produces a rudimentary gland structure in all imaginal tissues, where the cells isolate themselves from adjacent nonclonal cells. Most of these clones do not survive to adulthood, except some in the male reproductive tract. Of interest, these clones in the adult male become pigmented and have sperm within, like a functional spermatheca. To reiterate the important role of Hr39 in this process, they found that the mouse homolog of Hr39 can partially rescue spermatheca formation in the Hr39 mutant female. Poojitha Sitaram (Vanderbilt University, Tennessee) is interested in the role of the dynein (a minus end directed microtubule motor) and dynactin complex in spermatogenesis. She focused on the growth at the first meiotic division stage, where dynein plays an important role. In asunder (asun) mutants, there is a problem with meiotic division. The perinuclear localization of dynein-dynactin is lost in these mutants. Asun localization (nuclear to cytoplasmic) coincides with perinuclear recruitment of the dynein–dynactin complex. They transfected HeLa cells with asun and found that it is required for nucleus–centrosome coupling by recruiting the dynein–dynactin complex to the nuclear surface. They performed a dominant interactor screen and found the dynein interactor, Lissencephaly-1 (Lis-1). Analysis of Lis-1 mutant spermatocytes revealed multiple problems, including the fact the dynein-dynactin complex fail to have perinuclear localization. They believe that Asun and Lis-1 cooperate to regulate dynein localization and nucleus-centrosome coupling in spermatocytes. Li Liu (Yale University, Connecticut) discussed their lab's interest in the PIWI/ARGONAUTE family. PIWI proteins have been shown to be required for germline establishment and GSC maintenance. They identified the PAPI protein that contains a Tudor domain, which interacts with Argonaute 3 (AGO3) and other PIWI proteins. The PAPI-AGO3 interaction is the Tudor domain on PAPI. The Drosophila homolog of PRMT5, Capsuleen (Csul), is responsible for arginine methylation of AGO3, which is required for the PAPI–AGO3 interactions. The nuage is an electron-dense, perinuclear structure in the female germline, which contains PIWI proteins. They found that PAPI is required for oogenesis and embryogenesis. Csul and PAPI are required for the stability and localization of AGO3 to the nuage. Oocyte polarity is disrupted in papi and ago3 mutants, and eggs laid by papi mutants are ventralized. They also found many other germline defects in papi mutants. Saori L. Haigo (University of California, Berkeley) talked about her work on the elongation of the Drosophila egg, which is a rapid process from stages 5–9, approximately 20 hours total, which is just a fraction of overall oogenesis. Previous work in the lab found follicle cell mutants that produced round eggs instead of elongated eggs. They performed live imaging of developing follicles in culture. She found that the follicle cells are undergoing a continuous sheet migration, in fact the whole follicle cell layer is rotating in a polarized manner, orthogonal to the AP axis, in stages 5–9. Interestingly, the stalk cells are relatively static, because they are in contact with the static basement membrane. Mutants for myospheroid (mys), the Drosophila integrin beta subunit, fail to rotate. Drosophila Collagen IV, Viking (Vkg) forms a polarized fibrillar matrix during the rotational phase of oogenesis. These fibrils can span across multiple follicle cells, suggesting that this polarized rotation is involved in elongation of the egg. Viking maintains a polarized fibrillar matrix orthogonal to the AP axis during all elongation stages, while actin does not, which supports the idea that the extracellular matrix acts as a molecular corset to cause more AP growth instead of dorsal–ventral. The rotational mechanism helps to promote the polarization of the extracellular matrix, which is lost in the mys mutants.

Cell Division and Growth

Justin Crest (University of California, Santa Cruz) showed that multi-protein complexes settle at the center of the mitotic spindle at anaphase. At telophase, the proteins interact with Actin and Myosin to form contractile furrows. All central spindle proteins except the RhoGEF2 centralize at the center of the spindle. However, RhoGEF2 is displaced from the central domain in the metaphase furrow. Microtubules, actin and myosin are required for cytokinetic and ectopic furrow formation but the metaphase furrow only requires myosin. Lauren Killip (University of Calgary, Canada) demonstrated that the transcription factor DNA replication-related element factor (Dref) acts downstream of the Insulin/TOR pathway to regulate ribosome biogenesis. The Dref mutant larvae are smaller than the wild-type larvae, also the Dref mutant clones are smaller in size compared with the surrounding wild-type cells. The Dref mutant larvae grow 2 days slower than the wild-type larvae and have lower pupal volume. Over-expression of Rheb alone, an upstream TOR component, forms larger clones. However, over-expression of Rheb in Dref mutant cells formed smaller clones. Furthermore, TOR transcriptionally regulates Dref. Microarray analysis confirmed that Dref regulates ribosome biogenesis. Kieran Harvey (Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Singapore) spoke about a new binding partner of Yorkie (Yki), WW binding protein (Wbp2), which is involved in tissue growth. Wbp2 increased the overgrowth phenotype of Yki over-expression. Presently, they are performing experiments to find out the position of Wbp2 in Hippo (Hpo) signaling hierarchy, however, their preliminary experiments show that Wbp2 cannot be downstream of Warts (Wts). Pam J. Vanderzalm (University of Chicago, Illinois) showed Tao-1, a sterile 20 kinase, as a new member of the Salvador-Warts-Hippo (SWH) pathway. Tao-1 knockdown by RNAi showed overproliferation and an up-regulation of SWH pathway targets. Furthermore, Tao-1 requires Yki for its function. Epistatic experiments showed Tao-1 is upstream of Hpo. Tao-1 can undergo autophosphorylation and can phosphorylate Hpo. Melissa Gilbert (Emory School of Medicine, Georgia) presented her work on another component of the Hpo signaling pathway. She showed Myopic (Mop) as an endosomal regulator of Yki nuclear signal outputs. The mop mutants work synergistically with a block in cell death caused by eliminating developmental cell death using the Df(3L)H99 to deregulate organ size. The mop mutants are sensitive to the genetic dose of Yki; and Mop acts downstream of Wts. Mop binds to Yki by means of a WW:PPxY interaction and restricts Yki; output signals. This inhibition of Yki is independent of serine phosphorylation. They further observed that loss of Mop shifts endogenous Yki to early endosomes.

In addition to platform presentations, many interesting posters covering different aspects of cell division and growth were presented. Justin A. Bosch (University of California, Berkeley) presented a poster on two newly identified super-competitors: andre (adr) and hogen (hgn). The adr gene is located on 2L while hgn is located on 3L, and both mutations are homozygous lethal. Yoichiro Tamori (Florida State University) presented a poster on mahjong (mahj)-induced cell competition in egg chamber follicular epithelia. They showed that Mahjong binds to Lethal (2) giant larvae (L(2)gl) and both these genes play a role in cell competition. The traditional view is that surrounding cells proliferate to generate cells that would replace the unfit cells during cell competition. To test if mahj or l(2)gl follow this mechanism they tested the behavior of proliferating and nonproliferating cells in different genetic backgrounds. They showed that competitors do not need to reactivate proliferation once the surrounding cells are eliminated out; instead competitor cells just grow bigger in size. However, it's interesting to see that, in these competitors, Basket (Bsk, aka Jun-N-terminal kinase, JNK) levels decrease, and JNK is up-regulated only at the boundaries of the competitive interaction. Florence Janody (Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Portugal) showed that actin capping protein αβ heterodimer (Cpa and Cpb) inhibits Yki activity. Loss of the actin capping protein causes abnormal accumulation of apical F-actin protein, reduced Hpo activity, ectopic expression of several Yki targets leading to cell survival, and proliferation. Loss of hpo causes F-actin accumulation independent of Yki. Furthermore, capping proteins promote Yki phosphorylation, making it cytoplasmic. Shilpi Verghese (University of Dayton, Ohio) presented the role of Nedd2-like caspase (Nc, aka Dronc) in Hpo-mediated apoptosis. They showed that Dronc is a new transcriptional target of Hpo signaling. Furthermore, Dronc not only mediates the cell death function but also the cell proliferation function of Hpo signaling.

CELL DEATH

  1. Top of page
  2. DROSOPHILA MODELS OF HUMAN DISEASE
  3. PHYSIOLOGY
  4. BEHAVIOR
  5. GAMETOGENESIS
  6. CELL DEATH
  7. EYE DEVELOPMENT
  8. POSTER AWARDS
  9. Acknowledgements

Cell death mechanisms were discussed during multiple sessions (workshop, platforms presentations, and posters) at this meeting. The presentations covered diverse topics ranging from apoptosis, compensatory proliferation, to microphagy. Offer Gerlitz (The Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School, Israel) showed that the interaction of the co-repressor Nab with the transcriptional repressor Brinker (Brk) function to induce JNK-dependent apoptosis. Signaling downstream of Nab induces JNK, which then independently coordinates two signals that trigger apoptosis and compensatory proliferation. Furthermore, their group presented that Dronc coordinates cell death and compensatory proliferation through JNK and p53. Nab induces cell death and compensatory proliferation independent of p53. Donald G. McEwen (University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio) showed the mechanism behind p53 and JNK interaction. Their group showed that p53 binding to dephosphorylated JNK prevents phosphatase-mediated apoptosis. Increased activity of Puckered (Puc), a dual specificity phosphatase and inhibitor of JNK, blocks radiation-induced programmed cell death. p53 is required for radiation-induced JNK activation. Eric H. Baehrecke (University of Massachusetts Medical School) focused on the significance of cell death during development. He showed the role of autophagy in midgut cell death. His group showed that autophagy in a cell is context dependent. Midgut cell death is not inhibited by p35 nor by double- and triple-mutations in caspases. Therefore, autophagy is the key player for cell death in the midgut. Autophagy-specific genes 1, 8, and 18 (Atg1, Atg8, Atg18) cause cells to shrink during autophagy in the midgut; however, Atg7 is not required for this process. Allison K. Timmons (Boston University, Massachusetts) showed that JNK signaling had a significant role in mid-oogenesis. JNK is required in starvation-induced cell death observed during mid-oogenesis. They showed the role of nonprofessional phagocytes in the engulfment of the dying follicle cells. Draper (Drpr), SH2 ankyrin repeat kinase (Shark) and Rac1 are required for this engulfment process. Anat Florentin (Weizman Institute of Science, Israel) introduced a useful tool to detect initiator caspase activity in vivo. Their group showed that caspase potency and their execution threshold determines the induction and rate of cell death in Drosophila. They have developed a caspase reporter to detect caspase activity in vivo. They observed that endogenous levels of Death caspase-1 (Dcp-1) are not enough to induce apoptosis following irradiation, but that this process also requires Drice. Furthermore, they showed that Drice is a more potent executioner than Dcp-1, and that Dcp-1 affects the kinetics of cell death.

Several posters were presented that unraveled new complexities in cell death mechanisms. Sung-Yeon Park (Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, Maryland) showed that decapentaplegichc (dpphc) mutation leads to the activation of JNK resulting in defective ventral head structures: vibrissae, gena, rostral membrane, maxillary palps. Thus, Dpp signaling represses JNK signaling to allow for normal palps development. Yunsik Kang (University of Wisconsin, Madison) showed bulsa as a novel regulator of the apoptosome components, Dronc and Drosophila Apaf-1 related killer (Dark). The bulsa gene is regulated by survival signals by means of the PI3K/AKT pathways. Thus, bulsa may be a link between survival signals and apoptosis. Zonghua Liu (Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, China) showed that Drosophila acid sphingomyelinase (dASMase) is involved in apoptosis. Over-expression of dASMase causes cell death which could be rescued by p35 over-expression. Anne Sapiro (University of Wisconsin, Madison) identified novel apoptosis regulators required during metamorphosis. Three regulators, peptide O-xylosyltransferase (oxt), PAPS synthetase (PAPss), and Sugarless (Sgl), which are conventionally known to function in heparan sulfate proteoglycan biosynthetic process, were identified in this screen. Evgeny Shlevkov (CSIC-UAM, Spain) showed that p53 and JNK activates Wrinkled (W, aka Hid) and Reaper (Rpr) independent of Dronc. JNK and p53 can induce each other, and they mediate a positive feedback loop from Dronc to pro-apoptotic genes, mutually activating each other. Hid induces p53 and JNK in a Dronc-dependent manner. Apoptosis induced by Hid and Rpr is low in the absence of Dronc, p53 and JNK.

EYE DEVELOPMENT

  1. Top of page
  2. DROSOPHILA MODELS OF HUMAN DISEASE
  3. PHYSIOLOGY
  4. BEHAVIOR
  5. GAMETOGENESIS
  6. CELL DEATH
  7. EYE DEVELOPMENT
  8. POSTER AWARDS
  9. Acknowledgements

The compound eye of the adult fly is made up of approximately 800 ommatidia. The adult eye develops from the larval eye imaginal disc. The core genetic pathway required to form an eye is referred to as the Retinal Determination (RD) genes. These genes are highly conserved among species. The RD gene network comprises of twin of eyeless (toy), eyeless (ey), eyes absent (eya), sine oculis (so), dachshund (dac) and optix (opt). It is already known that these genes have the full potential of reprogramming the tissue and making ectopic eyes if these genes are mis-expressed in other imaginal discs and loss-of-function of these RD genes leads to a loss of eye development.

Catarina Bras-Pereira (Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Portugal) suggested a novel role for the RD gene, dac, in regulating morphogenetic furrow (MF) dynamics. They found that even in a dac mutant, eye specification and retinal differentiation occurs. So they concluded that dac is neither required for normal eye specification nor for retinal differentiation. Dac also has a novel role in the propagation of retinal differentiation: cells mutant for dac exhibit delay in exiting the MF, thereby affecting MF formation and progression. Their results suggest that the role of dac is not to promote the specification of the eye field, but to regulate MF dynamics. Carrie M. Spratford (Indiana University, Bloomington) demonstrated that the extramacrochaete (emc), which encodes a bHLH protein, controls the progression of the MF by means of Hedgehog (Hh), Dpp, and Wg signaling pathways. It is already known that MF progression is driven by the Hh and Dpp gradients. Two bHLH class proteins Hairy (H) and Emc are also involved in this progression and they aim to study how Emc interacts with these signaling pathways. Bonnie Weasner (Indiana University, Bloomington) is studying the necessity of Eya and So in maintaining the expression patterns of selector genes in the eye. It is known that So and Eya form a complex and mutually repress each other. Loss of function clones of so or eya in the eye–antennal imaginal disc causes an eye to cuticle transformation because when the primary fate of the eye field is altered then the progenitor cell pool compensates and switches to secondary fate tissue (cuticle). Yiyun Chen (Baylor College of Medicine, Texas) identified cropped (crp) as a target of ey. Crp was found to be responsible for the DNA binding activity of Secretion enhancer-binding protein 3 (Sebp3). Mutation in crp causes a delay in MF progression and disruption of ommatidial organization. Yu Fen Huang (Academia Sinica, Taiwan) presented her work on the study of cell lineage in Drosophila Retinal Basal Glia (RBG). Her study looked at the interaction between photoreceptor neurons and glia cells, including glia in the optic lobe of the brain and the RBG that migrate from the brain into the eye disc. She also studied the different types of glia within the visual system, and how they affect photoreceptor development and function. RBG has a role in photoreceptor axon guidance and migrate into eye discs. There are three types of RBG cells: wrapping glia, carpet glia, and surface glia. This work illustrated a sequential differentiation model as they showed that the surface glia migrates from the basal side to become carpet glia, and once they reach the anterior region, the glia now differentiate into wrapping glia and wrap around photoreceptor axons.

Axial patterning is crucial for organogenesis. Axis patterning includes determination of the AP, Dorso–Ventral (DV) and Proximo–Distal (PD) axes, which can transform a monolayer epithelium into a three-dimensional organ. In the Drosophila eye, DV patterning is the first lineage restriction event. The Drosophila eye primordium has a default ventral fate on which the dorsal eye fate is established. Meghana Tare (University of Dayton, Ohio) showed that cul-4 is a ventral eye fate gene that is required to promote cell survival by targeting Wg for degradation and promote normal eye development. Oorvashi Roy Puli (University of Dayton, Ohio) identified the homeobox gene, defective proventriculus (dve), as a new dorsal fate selector in the eye. Her results suggest that dve acts upstream of Wg and promotes normal eye development. It is already known that when Wg signaling is blocked it causes ectopic eyes. Therefore, they are trying to study if dve could be the transcription factor that prevents this ectopic eye formation in normal conditions.

POSTER AWARDS

  1. Top of page
  2. DROSOPHILA MODELS OF HUMAN DISEASE
  3. PHYSIOLOGY
  4. BEHAVIOR
  5. GAMETOGENESIS
  6. CELL DEATH
  7. EYE DEVELOPMENT
  8. POSTER AWARDS
  9. Acknowledgements

Poster awards are presented to acknowledge the efforts of trainees of the Drosophila community. In the 2011 meeting, the awards were presented in three main categories of postdoctoral fellow, graduate student, and undergraduate student. Sean M. Buchanan (The Rowland Institute at Harvard, Massachusetts) won the first prize in the postdoctoral category for his poster titled, “Handedness in Drosophila locomotor behavior.” Valerie Hilgers and Ines Ribeiro were runners up in the same category. In the graduate student category, Yoosik Kim (Princeton University, New Jersey) was awarded first prize for his poster titled, “A model for the regulation of tailless by three maternal signals in the early embryo.” Imke Schmidt and Grace Y. C. Lee were the runners up in the same category. Sonia Hall (University of Kansas) won first prize in the undergraduate category for her poster titled, “Macroglobulin complement related (Mcr) is required for tracheal morphogenesis and septate junction function during embryogenesis and imaginal disc morphogenesis during metamorphosis.” Cameron Berry was awarded second prize in the same category.

Research in Drosophila continues to push the boundaries of our knowledge of genetics and biology, including human biology. The meeting proved to be a great success in providing a platform for presenting advances in a wide spectrum of research areas in the Drosophila model. The credit for its success goes to the GSA staff, local organizers, and the fly community. This meeting further strengthened the widely accepted fact that the insect model of Drosophila holds immense promise for advancing biology, medicine, and human genetics. Finally, we look forward to the 53rd Annual Drosophila meeting at Chicago, Illinois on March 7–11, 2012.

Acknowledgements

  1. Top of page
  2. DROSOPHILA MODELS OF HUMAN DISEASE
  3. PHYSIOLOGY
  4. BEHAVIOR
  5. GAMETOGENESIS
  6. CELL DEATH
  7. EYE DEVELOPMENT
  8. POSTER AWARDS
  9. Acknowledgements

We extend our apology to those whose work we could not cite due to space constraints. We thank members of the fly community for their input. GC is supported by a donation from the Charity Fidelity Gift Fund and from start-up and intramural support from Midwestern University. AS is supported by NIH grant (1R15 HD064557-01), start-up support from University of Dayton, grants from Ohio Cancer Research Associates and University of Dayton research council.