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Identification of echinus and characterization of its role in Drosophila eye development Bosdet, Ian Edward

Abstract

The precise structure of the adult Drosophila eye results from a coordinated process of cell sorting, differentiation and selective cell death in the retinal epithelium. Mutations in the gene echinus cause supernumerary pigment cells due to insufficient cell death. This study reports the identification of echinus and the characterization of its role in Drosophila retinal development. Using a combination of deletion mapping, gene expression analysis and genomic sequencing, echinus was cloned and several alleles were sequenced. echinus encodes a ~180kDa protein containing an ubiquitin hydrolase domain at its N-terminus and a polyglutamine tract at its C-terminus. echinus is expressed in the retina during pupal development and mutants of echinus have decreased levels of apoptosis during several stages of retinal development. Defects in the cell sorting process that precedes cell death are also observed in echinus loss-of-function mutants and echinus overexpression can cause defects in ommatidial rotation and the morphology of cone cells. echinus is a positive regulator of DE-cadherin and Enabled accumulation in adherens junctions of retinal epithelial cells. Genetic interactions were observed between echinus and the genes wingless, enabled and expanded. An immunofluorescence assay in Drosophila S2 cell cultured demonstrated that Echinus localizes to intracellular vesicles that do not appear to be endocytic in nature, and the C-terminal region of Echinus was shown to be necessary for this association. A protein interaction screen using an immunoprecipitation and mass spectrometry approach identified interactions between Echinus and the vesicle coat protein Clathrin, the scaffolding protein RACK1 and the casein kinase I epsilon (Dco). Co-immunoprecipitation additionally identified an interaction between Echinus and Enabled. This work has revealed echinus to be an important regulator of cell sorting and adherens junction formation in the developing retina and has identified multiple interactions between echinus and enabled, a regulator of the actin cytoskeleton.

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