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      Unkempt Is Negatively Regulated by mTOR and Uncouples Neuronal Differentiation from Growth Control

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          Neuronal differentiation is exquisitely controlled both spatially and temporally during nervous system development. Defects in the spatiotemporal control of neurogenesis cause incorrect formation of neural networks and lead to neurological disorders such as epilepsy and autism. The mTOR kinase integrates signals from mitogens, nutrients and energy levels to regulate growth, autophagy and metabolism. We previously identified the insulin receptor (InR)/mTOR pathway as a critical regulator of the timing of neuronal differentiation in the Drosophila melanogaster eye. Subsequently, this pathway has been shown to play a conserved role in regulating neurogenesis in vertebrates. However, the factors that mediate the neurogenic role of this pathway are completely unknown. To identify downstream effectors of the InR/mTOR pathway we screened transcriptional targets of mTOR for neuronal differentiation phenotypes in photoreceptor neurons. We identified the conserved gene unkempt ( unk), which encodes a zinc finger/RING domain containing protein, as a negative regulator of the timing of photoreceptor differentiation. Loss of unk phenocopies InR/mTOR pathway activation and unk acts downstream of this pathway to regulate neurogenesis. In contrast to InR/mTOR signalling, unk does not regulate growth. unk therefore uncouples the role of the InR/mTOR pathway in neurogenesis from its role in growth control. We also identified the gene headcase ( hdc) as a second downstream regulator of the InR/mTOR pathway controlling the timing of neurogenesis. Unk forms a complex with Hdc, and Hdc expression is regulated by unk and InR/mTOR signalling. Co-overexpression of unk and hdc completely suppresses the precocious neuronal differentiation phenotype caused by loss of Tsc1. Thus, Unk and Hdc are the first neurogenic components of the InR/mTOR pathway to be identified. Finally, we show that Unkempt-like is expressed in the developing mouse retina and in neural stem/progenitor cells, suggesting that the role of Unk in neurogenesis may be conserved in mammals.

          Author Summary

          The development of a functional nervous system requires that nerve cells are generated at exactly the right time and place to be correctly integrated. Defects in the timing at which nerve cells are generated, or ‘differentiate’, lead to neurological disorders such as epilepsy and autism. However, very little is known about the identity of the genes that control the timing of nerve cell differentiation. Using developing photoreceptor nerves in the eye of the fruit fly, Drosophila, as a model, we showed previously that a molecular pathway known as ‘mTOR signalling’ is a key regulator of the timing of differentiation. In this study we have identified two new genes, unkempt and headcase, which control the timing of photoreceptor differentiation in Drosophila. The activity of unkempt and headcase is controlled by mTOR signalling and it is through these genes that mTOR is able to control nerve cell differentiation. The proteins encoded by unkempt and headcase form a complex and act synergistically to control the development of Drosophila photoreceptors. mTOR signalling controls a number of important cellular processes, but unkempt and headcase are the first components of this pathway to be identified that control nerve cell differentiation.

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          Most cited references 36

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          A complementary transposon tool kit for Drosophila melanogaster using P and piggyBac.

          With the availability of complete genome sequence for Drosophila melanogaster, one of the next strategic goals for fly researchers is a complete gene knockout collection. The P-element transposon, the workhorse of D. melanogaster molecular genetics, has a pronounced nonrandom insertion spectrum. It has been estimated that 87% saturation of the approximately 13,500-gene complement of D. melanogaster might require generating and analyzing up to 150,000 insertions. We describe specific improvements to the lepidopteran transposon piggyBac and the P element that enabled us to tag and disrupt genes in D. melanogaster more efficiently. We generated over 29,000 inserts resulting in 53% gene saturation and a more diverse collection of phenotypically stronger insertional alleles. We found that piggyBac has distinct global and local gene-tagging behavior from that of P elements. Notably, piggyBac excisions from the germ line are nearly always precise, piggyBac does not share chromosomal hotspots associated with P and piggyBac is more effective at gene disruption because it lacks the P bias for insertion in 5' regulatory sequences.
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            Phosphoproteomic analysis identifies Grb10 as an mTORC1 substrate that negatively regulates insulin signaling.

            The evolutionarily conserved serine-threonine kinase mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) plays a critical role in regulating many pathophysiological processes. Functional characterization of the mTOR signaling pathways, however, has been hampered by the paucity of known substrates. We used large-scale quantitative phosphoproteomics experiments to define the signaling networks downstream of mTORC1 and mTORC2. Characterization of one mTORC1 substrate, the growth factor receptor-bound protein 10 (Grb10), showed that mTORC1-mediated phosphorylation stabilized Grb10, leading to feedback inhibition of the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) and extracellular signal-regulated, mitogen-activated protein kinase (ERK-MAPK) pathways. Grb10 expression is frequently down-regulated in various cancers, and loss of Grb10 and loss of the well-established tumor suppressor phosphatase PTEN appear to be mutually exclusive events, suggesting that Grb10 might be a tumor suppressor regulated by mTORC1.
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              The tuberous sclerosis complex.

              Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is an autosomal dominant disorder that results from mutations in the TSC1 or TSC2 genes and is associated with hamartoma formation in multiple organ systems. The neurological manifestations of TSC are particularly challenging and include infantile spasms, intractable epilepsy, cognitive disabilities, and autism. Progress over the past 15 years has demonstrated that the TSC1 or TSC2 encoded proteins modulate cell function via the mTOR signaling cascade and serve as keystones in regulating cell growth and proliferation. The mTOR pathway provides an intersection for an intricate network of protein cascades that respond to cellular nutrition, energy levels, and growth-factor stimulation. In the brain, TSC1 and TSC2 have been implicated in cell body size, dendritic arborization, axonal outgrowth and targeting, neuronal migration, cortical lamination, and spine formation. Antagonism of the mTOR pathway with rapamycin and related compounds may provide new therapeutic options for TSC patients.

                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS Genet
                PLoS Genet
                PLoS Genetics
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                September 2014
                11 September 2014
                : 10
                : 9
                [1 ]Wolfson Centre for Age-Related Diseases, King's College London, London, United Kingdom
                [2 ]The Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
                New York University, United States of America
                Author notes

                The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

                Conceived and designed the experiments: AAR HM JMB. Performed the experiments: AAR NC CPC KY KTM CH UC CP JMB. Analyzed the data: AAR GL HM JMB. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: NC CPC. Contributed to the writing of the manuscript: AAR GL HM JMB.


                Current address: Centre de Génétique et de Physiologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire, UMR 5534 CNRS, Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1, Villeurbanne, France


                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

                Page count
                Pages: 14
                The work was funded by King's College London, The Wellcome Trust (WT088460MA and WT089622MA, http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (FRN 102656 and 97933, http://www.cihr-irsc.gc.ca/e/193.html). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
                Research Article
                Biology and Life Sciences
                Developmental Biology
                Cell Differentiation
                Neuronal Differentiation
                Cellular Neuroscience
                Developmental Neuroscience
                Molecular Neuroscience
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                The authors confirm that all data underlying the findings are fully available without restriction. All relevant data are within the paper and its Supporting Information files.



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