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38 Publications

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    Baker Lab
    09/27/13 | Male-specific fruitless isoforms have different regulatory roles conferred by distinct zinc finger DNA binding domains.
    Dalton JE, Fear JM, Knott S, Baker BS, McIntyre LM, Arbeitman MN
    BMC Genomics. 2013 Sep 27;14:659. doi: 10.1186/1471-2164-14-659

    BACKGROUND: Drosophila melanogaster adult males perform an elaborate courtship ritual to entice females to mate. fruitless (fru), a gene that is one of the key regulators of male courtship behavior, encodes multiple male-specific isoforms (Fru(M)). These isoforms vary in their carboxy-terminal zinc finger domains, which are predicted to facilitate DNA binding. RESULTS: By over-expressing individual Fru(M) isoforms in fru-expressing neurons in either males or females and assaying the global transcriptional response by RNA-sequencing, we show that three Fru(M) isoforms have different regulatory activities that depend on the sex of the fly. We identified several sets of genes regulated downstream of Fru(M) isoforms, including many annotated with neuronal functions. By determining the binding sites of individual Fru(M) isoforms using SELEX we demonstrate that the distinct zinc finger domain of each Fru(M) isoforms confers different DNA binding specificities. A genome-wide search for these binding site sequences finds that the gene sets identified as induced by over-expression of Fru(M) isoforms in males are enriched for genes that contain the binding sites. An analysis of the chromosomal distribution of genes downstream of Fru(M) shows that those that are induced and repressed in males are highly enriched and depleted on the X chromosome, respectively. CONCLUSIONS: This study elucidates the different regulatory and DNA binding activities of three Fru(M) isoforms on a genome-wide scale and identifies genes regulated by these isoforms. These results add to our understanding of sex chromosome biology and further support the hypothesis that in some cell-types genes with male-biased expression are enriched on the X chromosome.

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    Baker Lab
    07/03/13 | Genetic and neural mechanisms that inhibit Drosophila from mating with other species.
    Fan P, Manoli DS, Ahmed OM, Chen Y, Agarwal N, Kwong S, Cai AG, Neitz J, Renslo A, Baker BS, Shah NM
    Cell. 2013 Jul 3;154(1):89-102. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2013.06.008

    Genetically hard-wired neural mechanisms must enforce behavioral reproductive isolation because interspecies courtship is rare even in sexually na{\"ıve animals of most species. We find that the chemoreceptor Gr32a inhibits male D. melanogaster from courting diverse fruit fly species. Gr32a recognizes nonvolatile aversive cues present on these reproductively dead-end targets, and activity of Gr32a neurons is necessary and sufficient to inhibit interspecies courtship. Male-specific Fruitless (Fru(M)), a master regulator of courtship, also inhibits interspecies courtship. Gr32a and Fru(M) are not coexpressed, but Fru(M) neurons contact Gr32a neurons, suggesting that these genes influence a shared neural circuit that inhibits interspecies courtship. Gr32a and Fru(M) also suppress within-species intermale courtship, but we show that distinct mechanisms preclude sexual displays toward conspecific males and other species. Although this chemosensory pathway does not inhibit interspecies mating in D. melanogaster females, similar mechanisms appear to inhibit this behavior in many other male drosophilids.

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    Baker Lab
    05/29/12 | Joint control of Drosophila male courtship behavior by motion cues and activation of male-specific P1 neurons.
    Pan Y, Meissner GW, Baker BS
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2012 May 29;109(25):10065-70. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1207107109

    Sexual behaviors in animals are governed by inputs from multiple external sensory modalities. However, how these inputs are integrated to jointly control animal behavior is still poorly understood. Whereas visual information alone is not sufficient to induce courtship behavior in Drosophila melanogaster males, when a subset of male-specific fruitless (fru)- and doublesex (dsx)-expressing neurons that respond to chemosensory cues (P1 neurons) were artificially activated via a temperature-sensitive cation channel (dTRPA1), males followed and extended their wing toward moving objects (even a moving piece of rubber band) intensively. When stationary, these objects were not courted. Our results indicate that motion input and activation of P1 neurons are individually necessary, and under our assay conditions, jointly sufficient to elicit early courtship behaviors, and provide insights into how courtship decisions are made via sensory integration.

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    Baker Lab
    01/01/12 | Doublesex functions early and late in gustatory sense organ development.
    Mellert DJ, Robinett CC, Baker BS
    PLoS One. 2012;7:e51489. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0051489

    Somatic sexual dimorphisms outside of the nervous system in Drosophila melanogaster are largely controlled by the male- and female-specific Doublesex transcription factors (DSX(M) and DSX(F), respectively). The DSX proteins must act at the right times and places in development to regulate the diverse array of genes that sculpt male and female characteristics across a variety of tissues. To explore how cellular and developmental contexts integrate with doublesex (dsx) gene function, we focused on the sexually dimorphic number of gustatory sense organs (GSOs) in the foreleg. We show that DSX(M) and DSX(F) promote and repress GSO formation, respectively, and that their relative contribution to this dimorphism varies along the proximodistal axis of the foreleg. Our results suggest that the DSX proteins impact specification of the gustatory sensory organ precursors (SOPs). DSX(F) then acts later in the foreleg to regulate gustatory receptor neuron axon guidance. These results suggest that the foreleg provides a unique opportunity for examining the context-dependent functions of DSX.

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    Baker Lab
    07/01/11 | Direct targets of the D. melanogaster DSXF protein and the evolution of sexual development.
    Luo SD, Shi GW, Baker BS
    Development. 2011 Jul;138(13):2761-71. doi: 10.1242/dev.065227

    Uncovering the direct regulatory targets of doublesex (dsx) and fruitless (fru) is crucial for an understanding of how they regulate sexual development, morphogenesis, differentiation and adult functions (including behavior) in Drosophila melanogaster. Using a modified DamID approach, we identified 650 DSX-binding regions in the genome from which we then extracted an optimal palindromic 13 bp DSX-binding sequence. This sequence is functional in vivo, and the base identity at each position is important for DSX binding in vitro. In addition, this sequence is enriched in the genomes of D. melanogaster (58 copies versus approximately the three expected from random) and in the 11 other sequenced Drosophila species, as well as in some other Dipterans. Twenty-three genes are associated with both an in vivo peak in DSX binding and an optimal DSX-binding sequence, and thus are almost certainly direct DSX targets. The association of these 23 genes with optimum DSX binding sites was used to examine the evolutionary changes occurring in DSX and its targets in insects.

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    Baker Lab
    06/24/11 | Functional dissection of the neural substrates for sexual behaviors in Drosophila melanogaster.
    Meissner GW, Manoli DS, Chavez JF, Knapp J, Lin TL, Stevens RJ, Mellert DJ, Tran DH, Baker BS
    Genetics. 2011 Jun 24;189(1):195-211. doi: 10.1534/genetics.111.129940

    The male-specific Fruitless proteins (Fru(M)) act to establish the potential for male courtship behavior in Drosophila melanogaster and are expressed in small groups of neurons throughout the nervous system. We screened  1000 GAL4 lines, using assays for general courtship, male-male interactions, and male fertility to determine the phenotypes resulting from the GAL4 driven inhibition of Fru(M) expression in subsets of these neurons. A battery of secondary assays showed that the phenotypic classes of GAL4 lines could be divided into subgroups based on additional neurobiological and behavioral criteria. For example, in some lines restoration of Fru(M) expression in cholinergic neurons restores fertility or reduces male-male courtship. Persistent chains of males courting each other in some lines results from males courting both sexes indiscriminately whereas in other lines this phenotype result from apparent habituation deficits. Inhibition of ectopic Fru(M) expression in females, in populations of neurons where Fru(M) is necessary for male fertility, can rescue female infertility. To identify the neurons responsible for some of the observed behavioral alterations, we determined the overlap between the identified GAL4 lines and endogenous Fru(M) expression in lines with fertility defects. The GAL4 lines causing fertility defects generally had widespread overlap with Fru(M) expression in many regions of the nervous system suggesting likely redundant Fru(M)-expressing neuronal pathways capable of conferring male fertility. From associations between the screened behaviors, we propose a functional model for courtship initiation.

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    Baker Lab
    01/01/11 | Turning males on: activation of male courtship behavior in Drosophila melanogaster.
    Pan Y, Robinett CC, Baker BS
    PLoS One. 2011;6:e21144. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0021144

    The innate sexual behaviors of Drosophila melanogaster males are an attractive system for elucidating how complex behavior patterns are generated. The potential for male sexual behavior in D. melanogaster is specified by the fruitless (fru) and doublesex (dsx) sex regulatory genes. We used the temperature-sensitive activator dTRPA1 to probe the roles of fru(M)- and dsx-expressing neurons in male courtship behaviors. Almost all steps of courtship, from courtship song to ejaculation, can be induced at very high levels through activation of either all fru(M) or all dsx neurons in solitary males. Detailed characterizations reveal different roles for fru(M) and dsx in male courtship. Surprisingly, the system for mate discrimination still works well when all dsx neurons are activated, but is impaired when all fru(M) neurons are activated. Most strikingly, we provide evidence for a fru(M)-independent courtship pathway that is primarily vision dependent.

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    Baker Lab
    05/01/10 | Sex and the single cell. II. There is a time and place for sex.
    Robinett CC, Vaughan AG, Knapp J, Baker BS
    PLoS Biology. 2010 May;8(5):e1000365. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1000365

    The Drosophila melanogaster sex hierarchy controls sexual differentiation of somatic cells via the activities of the terminal genes in the hierarchy, doublesex (dsx) and fruitless (fru). We have targeted an insertion of GAL4 into the dsx gene, allowing us to visualize dsx-expressing cells in both sexes. Developmentally and as adults, we find that both XX and XY individuals are fine mosaics of cells and tissues that express dsx and/or fruitless (fru(M)), and hence have the potential to sexually differentiate, and those that don’t. Evolutionary considerations suggest such a mosaic expression of sexuality is likely to be a property of other animal species having two sexes. These results have also led to a major revision of our view of how sex-specific functions are regulated by the sex hierarchy in flies. Rather than there being a single regulatory event that governs the activities of all downstream sex determination regulatory genes-turning on Sex lethal (Sxl) RNA splicing activity in females while leaving it turned off in males-there are, in addition, elaborate temporal and spatial transcriptional controls on the expression of the terminal regulatory genes, dsx and fru. Thus tissue-specific aspects of sexual development are jointly specified by post-transcriptional control by Sxl and by the transcriptional controls of dsx and fru expression.

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    Baker Lab
    01/01/10 | Midline crossing by gustatory receptor neuron axons is regulated by fruitless, doublesex and the roundabout receptors.
    Mellert DJ, Knapp J, Manoli DS, Meissner GW, Baker BS
    Development. 2010 Jan;137(2):323-32. doi: 10.1242/dev.045047

    Although nervous system sexual dimorphisms are known in many species, relatively little is understood about the molecular mechanisms generating these dimorphisms. Recent findings in Drosophila provide the tools for dissecting how neurogenesis and neuronal differentiation are modulated by the Drosophila sex-determination regulatory genes to produce nervous system sexual dimorphisms. Here we report studies aimed at illuminating the basis of the sexual dimorphic axonal projection patterns of foreleg gustatory receptor neurons (GRNs): only in males do GRN axons project across the midline of the ventral nerve cord. We show that the sex determination genes fruitless (fru) and doublesex (dsx) both contribute to establishing this sexual dimorphism. Male-specific Fru (Fru(M)) acts in foreleg GRNs to promote midline crossing by their axons, whereas midline crossing is repressed in females by female-specific Dsx (Dsx(F)). In addition, midline crossing by these neurons might be promoted in males by male-specific Dsx (Dsx(M)). Finally, we (1) demonstrate that the roundabout (robo) paralogs also regulate midline crossing by these neurons, and (2) provide evidence that Fru(M) exerts its effect on midline crossing by directly or indirectly regulating Robo signaling.

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    Baker Lab
    04/02/09 | Manipulation of an innate escape response in Drosophila: photoexcitation of acj6 neurons induces the escape response.
    Zimmermann G, Wang L, Vaughan AG, Manoli DS, Zhang F, Deisseroth K, Baker BS, Scott MP
    PLoS One. 2009 Apr 2;4(4):e5100. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0005100

    BACKGROUND: The genetic analysis of behavior in Drosophila melanogaster has linked genes controlling neuronal connectivity and physiology to specific neuronal circuits underlying a variety of innate behaviors. We investigated the circuitry underlying the adult startle response, using photoexcitation of neurons that produce the abnormal chemosensory jump 6 (acj6) transcription factor. This transcription factor has previously been shown to play a role in neuronal pathfinding and neurotransmitter modality, but the role of acj6 neurons in the adult startle response was largely unknown. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We show that the activity of these neurons is necessary for a wild-type startle response and that excitation is sufficient to generate a synthetic escape response. Further, we show that this synthetic response is still sensitive to the dose of acj6 suggesting that that acj6 mutation alters neuronal activity as well as connectivity and neurotransmitter production. RESULTS/SIGNIFICANCE: These results extend the understanding of the role of acj6 and of the adult startle response in general. They also demonstrate the usefulness of activity-dependent characterization of neuronal circuits underlying innate behaviors in Drosophila, and the utility of integrating genetic analysis into modern circuit analysis techniques.

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