Honors & Awards
Postdoctoral Fellowship, American Italian Cancer Association (2021-2022)
4-year PhD Fellowship, Wellcome Trust (2016-2020)
PhD, University of Manchester, Quantitative and Biophysical Biology (2021)
MSc, University of Nottingham, Mathematical Medicine and Biology (2016)
BS, Università degli Studi di Firenze, Mathematics (2015)
Margaret Fuller, Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
Developmentally regulated alternate 3' end cleavage of nascent transcripts controls dynamic changes in protein expression in an adult stem cell lineage.
Genes & development
Alternative polyadenylation (APA) generates transcript isoforms that differ in the position of the 3' cleavage site, resulting in the production of mRNA isoforms with different length 3' UTRs. Although widespread, the role of APA in the biology of cells, tissues, and organisms has been controversial. We identified >500 Drosophila genes that express mRNA isoforms with a long 3' UTR in proliferating spermatogonia but a short 3' UTR in differentiating spermatocytes due to APA. We show that the stage-specific choice of the 3' end cleavage site can be regulated by the arrangement of a canonical polyadenylation signal (PAS) near the distal cleavage site but a variant or no recognizable PAS near the proximal cleavage site. The emergence of transcripts with shorter 3' UTRs in differentiating cells correlated with changes in expression of the encoded proteins, either from off in spermatogonia to on in spermatocytes or vice versa. Polysome gradient fractionation revealed >250 genes where the long 3' UTR versus short 3' UTR mRNA isoforms migrated differently, consistent with dramatic stage-specific changes in translation state. Thus, the developmentally regulated choice of an alternative site at which to make the 3' end cut that terminates nascent transcripts can profoundly affect the suite of proteins expressed as cells advance through sequential steps in a differentiation lineage.
View details for DOI 10.1101/gad.349689.122
View details for PubMedID 36175033
miR-9a regulates levels of both rhomboid mRNA and protein in the early Drosophila melanogaster embryo.
G3 (Bethesda, Md.)
MicroRNAs can have subtle and combinatorial effects on the levels of the targets and pathways they act on. Studying the consequences of a single microRNA knockout often proves difficult as many such knockouts exhibit phenotypes only under stress conditions. This has often led to the hypothesis that microRNAs buffer the effects of intrinsic and environmental stochasticity on gene expression. Observing and understanding this buffering effect entails quantitative analysis of microRNA and target expression in single cells. To this end, we have employed single molecule fluorescence in situ hybridization, immunofluorescence, and high-resolution confocal microscopy to investigate the effects of miR-9a loss on the expression of the serine-protease Rhomboid in Drosophila melanogaster early embryos. Our single-cell quantitative approach shows that spatially, the rhomboid mRNA pattern is identical in WT and miR-9a knockout embryos. However, we find that the number of mRNA molecules per cell is higher when miR-9a is absent, and the level and temporal accumulation of rhomboid protein shows a more dramatic increase in the miR-9a knockout. Specifically, we see accumulation of rhomboid protein in miR-9a mutants by stage 5, much earlier than in WT. The data therefore show that miR-9a functions in the regulation of rhomboid mRNA and protein levels. While further work is required to establish whether rhomboid is a direct target of miR-9 in Drosophila, our results further establish the miR-9 family microRNAs as conserved regulators of timing in neurogenic processes. This work shows the power of single-cell quantification as an experimental tool to study phenotypic consequences of microRNA mis-regulation.
View details for DOI 10.1093/g3journal/jkac026
View details for PubMedID 35143618
Single-cell visualization of mir-9a and Senseless co-expression during Drosophila melanogaster embryonic and larval peripheral nervous system development
G3-GENES GENOMES GENETICS
2021; 11 (1)
The Drosophila melanogaster peripheral nervous system (PNS) comprises the sensory organs that allow the fly to detect environmental factors such as temperature and pressure. PNS development is a highly specified process where each sensilla originates from a single sensory organ precursor (SOP) cell. One of the major genetic orchestrators of PNS development is Senseless, which encodes a zinc finger transcription factor (Sens). Sens is both necessary and sufficient for SOP differentiation. Senseless expression and SOP number are regulated by the microRNA miR-9a. However, the reciprocal dynamics of Senseless and miR-9a are still obscure. By coupling single-molecule FISH with immunofluorescence, we are able to visualize transcription of the mir-9a locus and expression of Sens simultaneously. During embryogenesis, we show that the expression of mir-9a in SOP cells is rapidly lost as Senseless expression increases. However, this mutually exclusive expression pattern is not observed in the third instar imaginal wing disk, where some Senseless-expressing cells show active sites of mir-9a transcription. These data challenge and extend previous models of Senseless regulation and show complex co-expression dynamics between mir-9a and Senseless. The differences in this dynamic relationship between embryonic and larval PNS development suggest a possible switch in miR-9a function. Our work brings single-cell resolution to the understanding of dynamic regulation of PNS development by Senseless and miR-9a.
View details for DOI 10.1093/g3journal/jkaa010
View details for Web of Science ID 000651851700005
View details for PubMedID 33561238
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC7849905