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PLoS Genet. 2012;8(3):e1002632. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1002632. Epub 2012 Mar 29.

Phosphorylation of the Drosophila melanogaster RNA-binding protein HOW by MAPK/ERK enhances its dimerization and activity.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Genetics, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel.

Abstract

Drosophila melanogaster Held Out Wings (HOW) is a conserved RNA-binding protein (RBP) belonging to the STAR family, whose closest mammalian ortholog Quaking (QKI) has been implicated in embryonic development and nervous system myelination. The HOW RBP modulates a variety of developmental processes by controlling mRNA levels and the splicing profile of multiple key regulatory genes; however, mechanisms regulating its activity in tissues have yet to be elucidated. Here, we link receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) signaling to the regulation of QKI subfamily of STAR proteins, by showing that HOW undergoes phosphorylation by MAPK/ERK. Importantly, we show that this modification facilitates HOW dimerization and potentiates its ability to bind RNA and regulate its levels. Employing an antibody that specifically recognizes phosphorylated HOW, we show that HOW is phosphorylated in embryonic muscles and heart cardioblasts in vivo, thus documenting for the first time Serine/Threonine (Ser/Thr) phosphorylation of a STAR protein in the context of an intact organism. We also identify the sallimus/D-titin (sls) gene as a novel muscle target of HOW-mediated negative regulation and further show that this regulation is phosphorylation-dependent, underscoring the physiological relevance of this modification. Importantly, we demonstrate that HOW Thr phosphorylation is reduced following muscle-specific knock down of Drosophila MAPK rolled and that, correspondingly, Sls is elevated in these muscles, similarly to the HOW RNAi effect. Taken together, our results provide a coherent mechanism of differential HOW activation; MAPK/ERK-dependent phosphorylation of HOW promotes the formation of HOW dimers and thus enhances its activity in controlling mRNA levels of key muscle-specific genes. Hence, our findings bridge between MAPK/ERK signaling and RNA regulation in developing muscles.

PMID:
22479211
PMCID:
PMC3315481
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pgen.1002632
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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