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.
A genome-wide CRISPR screen identifies the glycosylation enzyme DPM1 as a modifier of DPAGT1 deficiency and ER stress.” BioRxiv. Publisher's VersionAbstract. 12/4/2021. “
Partial loss-of-function mutations in glycosylation pathways underlie a set of rare diseases called Congenital Disorders of Glycosylation (CDGs). In particular, DPAGT1 CDG is caused by mutations in the gene encoding the first step in N-glycosylation, DPAGT1, and this disorder currently lacks effective therapies. To identify potential therapeutic targets for DPAGT1-CDG, we performed CRISPR knockout screens in Drosophila cells for genes associated with better survival and glycoprotein levels under DPAGT1 inhibition. We identified hundreds of candidate genes that may be of therapeutic benefit. Intriguingly, inhibition of the mannosyltransferase Dpm1, or its downstream glycosylation pathways, could rescue two in vivo models of DPAGT1 inhibition and ER stress, even though impairment of these pathways alone usually cause CDGs. While both in vivo models ostensibly cause ER stress (through DPAGT1 inhibition or a misfolded protein), we found a novel difference in fructose metabolism that may indicate glycolysis as a modulator of DPAGT1-CDG. Our results provide new therapeutic targets for DPAGT1-CDG, include the unique finding of Dpm1-related pathways rescuing DPAGT1 inhibition, and reveal a novel interaction between fructose metabolism and ER stress.
Bioinformatic and cell-based tools for pooled CRISPR knockout screening in mosquitos.” Nat Commun, 12, 1, Pp. 6825.Abstract. 11/24/2021. “
Mosquito-borne diseases present a worldwide public health burden. Current efforts to understand and counteract them have been aided by the use of cultured mosquito cells. Moreover, application in mammalian cells of forward genetic approaches such as CRISPR screens have identified essential genes and genes required for host-pathogen interactions, and in general, aided in functional annotation of genes. An equivalent approach for genetic screening of mosquito cell lines has been lacking. To develop such an approach, we design a new bioinformatic portal for sgRNA library design in several mosquito genomes, engineer mosquito cell lines to express Cas9 and accept sgRNA at scale, and identify optimal promoters for sgRNA expression in several mosquito species. We then optimize a recombination-mediated cassette exchange system to deliver CRISPR sgRNA and perform pooled CRISPR screens in an Anopheles cell line. Altogether, we provide a platform for high-throughput genome-scale screening in cell lines from disease vector species.
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.
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.
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2018 Apr 13
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.