Understanding human gene function is fundamental to understanding and treating diseases. Research using the model organism Drosophila melanogaster benefits from a wealth of molecular genetic resources and information useful for efficient in vivo experimentation. Moreover, Drosophila offers a balance as a relatively simple organism that nonetheless exhibits complex multicellular activities. Recent examples demonstrate the power and continued promise of Drosophila research to further our understanding of conserved gene functions.
BioLitMine: Advanced Mining of Biomedical and Biological Literature About Human Genes and Genes from Major Model Organisms.” G3 (Bethesda).Abstract. 2020. “
The accumulation of biological and biomedical literature outpaces the ability of most researchers and clinicians to stay abreast of their own immediate fields, let alone a broader range of topics. Although available search tools support identification of relevant literature, finding relevant and key publications is not always straightforward. For example, important publications might be missed in searches with an official gene name due to gene synonyms. Moreover, ambiguity of gene names can result in retrieval of a large number of irrelevant publications. To address these issues and help researchers and physicians quickly identify relevant publications, we developed BioLitMine, an advanced literature mining tool that takes advantage of the medical subject heading (MeSH) index and gene-to-publication annotations already available for PubMed literature. Using BioLitMine, a user can identify what MeSH terms are represented in the set of publications associated with a given gene of the interest, or start with a term and identify relevant publications. Users can also use the tool to find co-cited genes and a build a literature co-citation network. In addition, BioLitMine can help users build a gene list relevant to a MeSH terms, such as a list of genes relevant to "stem cells" or "breast neoplasms." Users can also start with a gene or pathway of interest and identify authors associated with that gene or pathway, a feature that makes it easier to identify experts who might serve as collaborators or reviewers. Altogether, BioLitMine extends the value of PubMed-indexed literature and its existing expert curation by providing a robust and gene-centric approach to retrieval of relevant information.
HIF-independent synthetic lethality between CDK4/6 inhibition and VHL loss across species.” Sci Signal, 12, 601.Abstract. 2019. “
Inactivation of the tumor suppressor gene is the signature initiating event in clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC), the most common form of kidney cancer, and causes the accumulation of hypoxia-inducible factor 2α (HIF-2α). HIF-2α inhibitors are effective in some ccRCC cases, but both de novo and acquired resistance have been observed in the laboratory and in the clinic. Here, we identified synthetic lethality between decreased activity of cyclin-dependent kinases 4 and 6 (CDK4/6) and inactivation in two species (human and ) and across diverse human ccRCC cell lines in culture and xenografts. Although HIF-2α transcriptionally induced the CDK4/6 partner cyclin D1, HIF-2α was not required for the increased CDK4/6 requirement of ccRCC cells. Accordingly, the antiproliferative effects of CDK4/6 inhibition were synergistic with HIF-2α inhibition in HIF-2α-dependent ccRCC cells and not antagonistic with HIF-2α inhibition in HIF-2α-independent cells. These findings support testing CDK4/6 inhibitors as treatments for ccRCC, alone and in combination with HIF-2α inhibitors.
Drosophila melanogaster: a simple system for understanding complexity.” Dis Model Mech, 12, 10. Publisher's VersionAbstract. 9/27/2019. “
Methionine metabolism and methyltransferases in the regulation of aging and lifespan extension across species.” Aging Cell, Pp. e13034.Abstract. 2019. “
Methionine restriction (MetR) extends lifespan across different species and exerts beneficial effects on metabolic health and inflammatory responses. In contrast, certain cancer cells exhibit methionine auxotrophy that can be exploited for therapeutic treatment, as decreasing dietary methionine selectively suppresses tumor growth. Thus, MetR represents an intervention that can extend lifespan with a complementary effect of delaying tumor growth. Beyond its function in protein synthesis, methionine feeds into complex metabolic pathways including the methionine cycle, the transsulfuration pathway, and polyamine biosynthesis. Manipulation of each of these branches extends lifespan; however, the interplay between MetR and these branches during regulation of lifespan is not well understood. In addition, a potential mechanism linking the activity of methionine metabolism and lifespan is regulation of production of the methyl donor S-adenosylmethionine, which, after transferring its methyl group, is converted to S-adenosylhomocysteine. Methylation regulates a wide range of processes, including those thought to be responsible for lifespan extension by MetR. Although the exact mechanisms of lifespan extension by MetR or methionine metabolism reprogramming are unknown, it may act via reducing the rate of translation, modifying gene expression, inducing a hormetic response, modulating autophagy, or inducing mitochondrial function, antioxidant defense, or other metabolic processes. Here, we review the mechanisms of lifespan extension by MetR and different branches of methionine metabolism in different species and the potential for exploiting the regulation of methyltransferases to delay aging.
iProteinDB: An Integrative Database of Post-translational Modifications.” G3 (Bethesda), 9, 1, Pp. 1-11.Abstract. 2019. “
Post-translational modification (PTM) serves as a regulatory mechanism for protein function, influencing their stability, interactions, activity and localization, and is critical in many signaling pathways. The best characterized PTM is phosphorylation, whereby a phosphate is added to an acceptor residue, most commonly serine, threonine and tyrosine in metazoans. As proteins are often phosphorylated at multiple sites, identifying those sites that are important for function is a challenging problem. Considering that any given phosphorylation site might be non-functional, prioritizing evolutionarily conserved phosphosites provides a general strategy to identify the putative functional sites. To facilitate the identification of conserved phosphosites, we generated a large-scale phosphoproteomics dataset from embryos collected from six closely-related species. We built iProteinDB (https://www.flyrnai.org/tools/iproteindb/), a resource integrating these data with other high-throughput PTM datasets, including vertebrates, and manually curated information for At iProteinDB, scientists can view the PTM landscape for any protein and identify predicted functional phosphosites based on a comparative analysis of data from closely-related species. Further, iProteinDB enables comparison of PTM data from to that of orthologous proteins from other model organisms, including human, mouse, rat, , , and .
Accessing the Phenotype Gap: Enabling Systematic Investigation of Paralog Functional Complexity with CRISPR.” Dev Cell, 43, 1, Pp. 6-9.Abstract. 10/9/2017. “
Single-gene knockout experiments can fail to reveal function in the context of redundancy, which is frequently observed among duplicated genes (paralogs) with overlapping functions. We discuss the complexity associated with studying paralogs and outline how recent advances in CRISPR will help address the "phenotype gap" and impact biomedical research.
MARRVEL: Integration of Human and Model Organism Genetic Resources to Facilitate Functional Annotation of the Human Genome.” Am J Hum Genet, 100, 6, Pp. 843-853.Abstract. 6/1/2017. “
One major challenge encountered with interpreting human genetic variants is the limited understanding of the functional impact of genetic alterations on biological processes. Furthermore, there remains an unmet demand for an efficient survey of the wealth of information on human homologs in model organisms across numerous databases. To efficiently assess the large volume of publically available information, it is important to provide a concise summary of the most relevant information in a rapid user-friendly format. To this end, we created MARRVEL (model organism aggregated resources for rare variant exploration). MARRVEL is a publicly available website that integrates information from six human genetic databases and seven model organism databases. For any given variant or gene, MARRVEL displays information from OMIM, ExAC, ClinVar, Geno2MP, DGV, and DECIPHER. Importantly, it curates model organism-specific databases to concurrently display a concise summary regarding the human gene homologs in budding and fission yeast, worm, fly, fish, mouse, and rat on a single webpage. Experiment-based information on tissue expression, protein subcellular localization, biological process, and molecular function for the human gene and homologs in the seven model organisms are arranged into a concise output. Hence, rather than visiting multiple separate databases for variant and gene analysis, users can obtain important information by searching once through MARRVEL. Altogether, MARRVEL dramatically improves efficiency and accessibility to data collection and facilitates analysis of human genes and variants by cross-disciplinary integration of 18 million records available in public databases to facilitate clinical diagnosis and basic research.
Gene2Function: An Integrated Online Resource for Gene Function Discovery.” G3 (Bethesda).Abstract. 8/7/2017. “
One of the most powerful ways to develop hypotheses regarding biological functions of conserved genes in a given species, such as in humans, is to first look at what is known about function in another species. Model organism databases (MODs) and other resources are rich with functional information but difficult to mine. Gene2Function (G2F) addresses a broad need by integrating information about conserved genes in a single online resource.