Arunachalam Vinayagam, Travis E Gibson, Ho-Joon Lee, Bahar Yilmazel, Charles Roesel, Yanhui Hu, Young Kwon, Amitabh Sharma, Yang-Yu Liu, Norbert Perrimon, and Albert-László Barabási. 5/3/2016. “Controllability analysis of the directed human protein interaction network identifies disease genes and drug targets.” Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 113, 18, Pp. 4976-81.Abstract

The protein-protein interaction (PPI) network is crucial for cellular information processing and decision-making. With suitable inputs, PPI networks drive the cells to diverse functional outcomes such as cell proliferation or cell death. Here, we characterize the structural controllability of a large directed human PPI network comprising 6,339 proteins and 34,813 interactions. This network allows us to classify proteins as "indispensable," "neutral," or "dispensable," which correlates to increasing, no effect, or decreasing the number of driver nodes in the network upon removal of that protein. We find that 21% of the proteins in the PPI network are indispensable. Interestingly, these indispensable proteins are the primary targets of disease-causing mutations, human viruses, and drugs, suggesting that altering a network's control property is critical for the transition between healthy and disease states. Furthermore, analyzing copy number alterations data from 1,547 cancer patients reveals that 56 genes that are frequently amplified or deleted in nine different cancers are indispensable. Among the 56 genes, 46 of them have not been previously associated with cancer. This suggests that controllability analysis is very useful in identifying novel disease genes and potential drug targets.

Huajin Wang, Michel Becuwe, Benjamin E Housden, Chandramohan Chitraju, Ashley J Porras, Morven M Graham, Xinran N Liu, Abdou Rachid Thiam, David B Savage, Anil K Agarwal, Abhimanyu Garg, Maria-Jesus Olarte, Qingqing Lin, Florian Fröhlich, Hans Kristian Hannibal-Bach, Srigokul Upadhyayula, Norbert Perrimon, Tomas Kirchhausen, Christer S Ejsing, Tobias C Walther, and Robert V Farese. 2016. “Seipin is required for converting nascent to mature lipid droplets.” Elife, 5.Abstract

How proteins control the biogenesis of cellular lipid droplets (LDs) is poorly understood. Using Drosophila and human cells, we show here that seipin, an ER protein implicated in LD biology, mediates a discrete step in LD formation-the conversion of small, nascent LDs to larger, mature LDs. Seipin forms discrete and dynamic foci in the ER that interact with nascent LDs to enable their growth. In the absence of seipin, numerous small, nascent LDs accumulate near the ER and most often fail to grow. Those that do grow prematurely acquire lipid synthesis enzymes and undergo expansion, eventually leading to the giant LDs characteristic of seipin deficiency. Our studies identify a discrete step of LD formation, namely the conversion of nascent LDs to mature LDs, and define a molecular role for seipin in this process, most likely by acting at ER-LD contact sites to enable lipid transfer to nascent LDs.

Amino acid alignment of the fly paralogs kek1 and kek2

DIOPT 6.0 released -- with eggNOG and paralog searches added

November 29, 2016

DIOPT 6.0 went live this week. Newly added features include results from eggNOG, bringing the total number of alrogithms incorporated in our integrated search tool to 14. In addition, you can now search for paralogs. To do this, choose the same species for input and output. Examples for fly-fly and human-human paralog searches are shown. As always, your feedback is welcome.


Read more about DIOPT 6.0 released -- with eggNOG and paralog searches added
Yanhui Hu, Aram Comjean, Charles Roesel, Arunachalam Vinayagam, Ian Flockhart, Jonathan Zirin, Lizabeth Perkins, Norbert Perrimon, and Stephanie E Mohr. 10/11/2016. “—the database of the Drosophila RNAi screening center and transgenic RNAi project: 2017 update.” Nucleic Acids Research. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The FlyRNAi database of the Drosophila RNAi Screening Center (DRSC) and Transgenic RNAi Project (TRiP) at Harvard Medical School and associated DRSC/TRiP Functional Genomics Resources website ( serve as a reagent production tracking system, screen data repository, and portal to the community. Through this portal, we make available protocols, online tools, and other resources useful to researchers at all stages of high-throughput functional genomics screening, from assay design and reagent identification to data analysis and interpretation. In this update, we describe recent changes and additions to our website, database and suite of online tools. Recent changes reflect a shift in our focus from a single technology (RNAi) and model species (Drosophila) to the application of additional technologies (e.g. CRISPR) and support of integrated, cross-species approaches to uncovering gene function using functional genomics and other approaches.

Benjamin E Housden, Matthias Muhar, Matthew Gemberling, Charles A Gersbach, Didier YR Stainier, Geraldine Seydoux, Stephanie E Mohr, Johannes Zuber, and Norbert Perrimon. 10/31/2016. “Loss-of-function genetic tools for animal models: cross-species and cross-platform differences.” Nat Rev Genet. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Our understanding of the genetic mechanisms that underlie biological processes has relied extensively on loss-of-function (LOF) analyses. LOF methods target DNA, RNA or protein to reduce or to ablate gene function. By analysing the phenotypes that are caused by these perturbations the wild-type function of genes can be elucidated. Although all LOF methods reduce gene activity, the choice of approach (for example, mutagenesis, CRISPR-based gene editing, RNA interference, morpholinos or pharmacological inhibition) can have a major effect on phenotypic outcomes. Interpretation of the LOF phenotype must take into account the biological process that is targeted by each method. The practicality and efficiency of LOF methods also vary considerably between model systems. We describe parameters for choosing the optimal combination of method and system, and for interpreting phenotypes within the constraints of each method.

Multi sequence alignments for ALL search best matches

"One vs. All" a new feature in our ortholog search tool

October 3, 2016

Our DIOPT ortholog search tool has been updated to include the option to search for orthologs of a gene in all other species included. So you can search with, for example, a fly gene, and see orthologs in human, mouse, rat, frog, worm, and yeast.

Click on the button "show summary of top scores" to see a heat map view of the top-scoring ortholog matches in other species to your query species. This feature helps you see quickly if a gene has been conserved across many species or is, for example, only found in vertebrates.

As always, our tool supports batch-mode searches (you can...

Read more about "One vs. All" a new feature in our ortholog search tool
Stephanie E Mohr, Yanhui Hu, Benjamin Ewen-Campen, Benjamin E Housden, Raghuvir Viswanatha, and Norbert Perrimon. 2016. “CRISPR guide RNA design for research applications.” FEBS J.Abstract

The rapid rise of CRISPR as a technology for genome engineering and related research applications has created a need for algorithms and associated online tools that facilitate design of on-target and effective guide RNAs (gRNAs). Here, we review the state-of-the-art in CRISPR gRNA design for research applications of the CRISPR-Cas9 system, including knockout, activation and inhibition. Notably, achieving good gRNA design is not solely dependent on innovations in CRISPR technology. Good design and design tools also rely on availability of high-quality genome sequence and gene annotations, as well as on availability of accumulated data regarding off-targets and effectiveness metrics. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Shilpa Gandre-Babbe and Alexander M van der Bliek. 2008. “The novel tail-anchored membrane protein Mff controls mitochondrial and peroxisomal fission in mammalian cells.” Mol Biol Cell, 19, 6, Pp. 2402-12.Abstract

Few components of the mitochondrial fission machinery are known, even though mitochondrial fission is a complex process of vital importance for cell growth and survival. Here, we describe a novel protein that controls mitochondrial fission. This protein was identified in a small interfering RNA (siRNA) screen using Drosophila cells. The human homologue of this protein was named Mitochondrial fission factor (Mff). Mitochondria of cells transfected with Mff siRNA form a closed network similar to the mitochondrial networks formed when cells are transfected with siRNA for two established fission proteins, Drp1 and Fis1. Like Drp1 and Fis1 siRNA, Mff siRNA also inhibits fission induced by loss of mitochondrial membrane potential, it delays cytochrome c release from mitochondria and further progression of apoptosis, and it inhibits peroxisomal fission. Mff and Fis1 are both tail anchored in the mitochondrial outer membrane, but other parts of these proteins are very different and they exist in separate 200-kDa complexes, suggesting that they play different roles in the fission process. We conclude that Mff is a novel component of a conserved membrane fission pathway used for constitutive and induced fission of mitochondria and peroxisomes.

Zheng Yin, Amine Sadok, Heba Sailem, Afshan McCarthy, Xiaofeng Xia, Fuhai Li, Mar Arias Garcia, Louise Evans, Alexis R Barr, Norbert Perrimon, Christopher J Marshall, Stephen TC Wong, and Chris Bakal. 2013. “A screen for morphological complexity identifies regulators of switch-like transitions between discrete cell shapes.” Nat Cell Biol, 15, 7, Pp. 860-71.Abstract

The way in which cells adopt different morphologies is not fully understood. Cell shape could be a continuous variable or restricted to a set of discrete forms. We developed quantitative methods to describe cell shape and show that Drosophila haemocytes in culture are a heterogeneous mixture of five discrete morphologies. In an RNAi screen of genes affecting the morphological complexity of heterogeneous cell populations, we found that most genes regulate the transition between discrete shapes rather than generating new morphologies. In particular, we identified a subset of genes, including the tumour suppressor PTEN, that decrease the heterogeneity of the population, leading to populations enriched in rounded or elongated forms. We show that these genes have a highly conserved function as regulators of cell shape in both mouse and human metastatic melanoma cells.

Shenyuan L Zhang, Andriy V Yeromin, Xiang H-F Zhang, Ying Yu, Olga Safrina, Aubin Penna, Jack Roos, Kenneth A Stauderman, and Michael D Cahalan. 2006. “Genome-wide RNAi screen of Ca(2+) influx identifies genes that regulate Ca(2+) release-activated Ca(2+) channel activity.” Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 103, 24, Pp. 9357-62.Abstract

Recent studies by our group and others demonstrated a required and conserved role of Stim in store-operated Ca(2+) influx and Ca(2+) release-activated Ca(2+) (CRAC) channel activity. By using an unbiased genome-wide RNA interference screen in Drosophila S2 cells, we now identify 75 hits that strongly inhibited Ca(2+) influx upon store emptying by thapsigargin. Among these hits are 11 predicted transmembrane proteins, including Stim, and one, olf186-F, that upon RNA interference-mediated knockdown exhibited a profound reduction of thapsigargin-evoked Ca(2+) entry and CRAC current, and upon overexpression a 3-fold augmentation of CRAC current. CRAC currents were further increased to 8-fold higher than control and developed more rapidly when olf186-F was cotransfected with Stim. olf186-F is a member of a highly conserved family of four-transmembrane spanning proteins with homologs from Caenorhabditis elegans to human. The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) Ca(2+) pump sarco-/ER calcium ATPase (SERCA) and the single transmembrane-soluble N-ethylmaleimide-sensitive (NSF) attachment receptor (SNARE) protein Syntaxin5 also were required for CRAC channel activity, consistent with a signaling pathway in which Stim senses Ca(2+) depletion within the ER, translocates to the plasma membrane, and interacts with olf186-F to trigger CRAC channel activity.

Yanhui Hu, Ian Flockhart, Arunachalam Vinayagam, Clemens Bergwitz, Bonnie Berger, Norbert Perrimon, and Stephanie E Mohr. 2011. “An integrative approach to ortholog prediction for disease-focused and other functional studies.” BMC Bioinformatics, 12, Pp. 357.Abstract

BACKGROUND: Mapping of orthologous genes among species serves an important role in functional genomics by allowing researchers to develop hypotheses about gene function in one species based on what is known about the functions of orthologs in other species. Several tools for predicting orthologous gene relationships are available. However, these tools can give different results and identification of predicted orthologs is not always straightforward. RESULTS: We report a simple but effective tool, the Drosophila RNAi Screening Center Integrative Ortholog Prediction Tool (DIOPT;, for rapid identification of orthologs. DIOPT integrates existing approaches, facilitating rapid identification of orthologs among human, mouse, zebrafish, C. elegans, Drosophila, and S. cerevisiae. As compared to individual tools, DIOPT shows increased sensitivity with only a modest decrease in specificity. Moreover, the flexibility built into the DIOPT graphical user interface allows researchers with different goals to appropriately 'cast a wide net' or limit results to highest confidence predictions. DIOPT also displays protein and domain alignments, including percent amino acid identity, for predicted ortholog pairs. This helps users identify the most appropriate matches among multiple possible orthologs. To facilitate using model organisms for functional analysis of human disease-associated genes, we used DIOPT to predict high-confidence orthologs of disease genes in Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM) and genes in genome-wide association study (GWAS) data sets. The results are accessible through the DIOPT diseases and traits query tool (DIOPT-DIST; CONCLUSIONS: DIOPT and DIOPT-DIST are useful resources for researchers working with model organisms, especially those who are interested in exploiting model organisms such as Drosophila to study the functions of human disease genes.

Ramanuj DasGupta, Ajamete Kaykas, Randall T Moon, and Norbert Perrimon. 2005. “Functional genomic analysis of the Wnt-wingless signaling pathway.” Science, 308, 5723, Pp. 826-33.Abstract

The Wnt-Wingless (Wg) pathway is one of a core set of evolutionarily conserved signaling pathways that regulates many aspects of metazoan development. Aberrant Wnt signaling has been linked to human disease. In the present study, we used a genomewide RNA interference (RNAi) screen in Drosophila cells to screen for regulators of the Wnt pathway. We identified 238 potential regulators, which include known pathway components, genes with functions not previously linked to this pathway, and genes with no previously assigned functions. Reciprocal-Best-Blast analyses reveal that 50% of the genes identified in the screen have human orthologs, of which approximately 18% are associated with human disease. Functional assays of selected genes from the cell-based screen in Drosophila, mammalian cells, and zebrafish embryos demonstrated that these genes have evolutionarily conserved functions in Wnt signaling. High-throughput RNAi screens in cultured cells, followed by functional analyses in model organisms, prove to be a rapid means of identifying regulators of signaling pathways implicated in development and disease.