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Integration of RNA processing and expression level control modulates the function of the Drosophila Hox gene Ultrabithorax during adult development.

AuthorsNavas, Luis F. de ; Reed, Hilary; Akam, Michael; Barrio, Rosa; Alonso, Claudio R.; Sánchez-Herrero, Ernesto
Alternative splicing
Issue DateJan-2011
PublisherCompany of Biologists
CitationDevelopment - Cambridge 138(1):107-16 (2011)
AbstractAlthough most metazoan genes undergo alternative splicing, the functional relevance of the majority of alternative splicing products is still unknown. Here we explore this problem in the Drosophila Hox gene Ultrabithorax (Ubx). Ubx produces a family of six protein isoforms through alternative splicing. To investigate the functional specificity of the Ubx isoforms, we studied their role during the formation of the Drosophila halteres, small dorsal appendages that are essential for normal flight. Our work shows that isoform Ia, which is encoded by all Ubx exons, is more efficient than isoform IVa, which lacks the amino acids coded by two small exons, in controlling haltere development and regulating Ubx downstream targets. However, our experiments also demonstrate that the functional differences among the Ubx isoforms can be compensated for by increasing the expression levels of the less efficient form. The analysis of the DNA-binding profiles of Ubx isoforms to a natural Ubx target, spalt, shows no major differences in isoform DNA-binding activities, suggesting that alternative splicing might primarily affect the regulatory capacity of the isoforms rather than their DNA-binding patterns. Our results suggest that to obtain distinct functional outputs during normal development genes must integrate the generation of qualitative differences by alternative splicing to quantitative processes affecting isoform protein expression levels.
DescriptionSupplementary material for this article is available at http://dev.biologists.org/lookup/suppl/doi:10.1242/dev.051409/-/DC1
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1242/dev.051409
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