Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Cell Biology and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Nutritional control of gene expression in Drosophila larvae via TOR, Myc and a novel cis-regulatory element

Ling Li1, Bruce A Edgar1 and Savraj S Grewal23*

Author affiliations

1 Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA 98109, U.S.A

2 Clark H. Smith Brain Tumour Center, Southern Alberta Cancer Research Institute, Calgary, Alberta, T2N 4N1, Canada

3 Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, T2N 4N1, Canada

For all author emails, please log on.

Citation and License

BMC Cell Biology 2010, 11:7  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-11-7

Published: 20 January 2010

Abstract

Background

Nutrient availability is a key determinant of eukaryotic cell growth. In unicellular organisms many signaling and transcriptional networks link nutrient availability to the expression of metabolic genes required for growth. However, less is known about the corresponding mechanisms that operate in metazoans. We used gene expression profiling to explore this issue in developing Drosophila larvae.

Results

We found that starvation for dietary amino acids (AA's) leads to dynamic changes in transcript levels of many metabolic genes. The conserved insulin/PI3K and TOR signaling pathways mediate nutrition-dependent growth in Drosophila and other animals. We found that many AA starvation-responsive transcripts were also altered in TOR mutants. In contrast, although PI3K overexpression induced robust changes in the expression of many metabolic genes, these changes showed limited overlap with the AA starvation expression profile. We did however identify a strong overlap between genes regulated by the transcription factor, Myc, and AA starvation-responsive genes, particularly those involved in ribosome biogenesis, protein synthesis and mitochondrial function. The consensus Myc DNA binding site is enriched in promoters of these AA starvation genes, and we found that Myc overexpression could bypass dietary AA to induce expression of these genes. We also identified another sequence motif (Motif 1) enriched in the promoters of AA starvation-responsive genes. We showed that Motif 1 was both necessary and sufficient to mediate transcriptional responses to dietary AA in larvae.

Conclusions

Our data suggest that many of the transcriptional effects of amino acids are mediated via signaling through the TOR pathway in Drosophila larvae. We also find that these transcriptional effects are mediated through at least two mechanisms: via the transcription factor Myc, and via the Motif 1 cis-regulatory element. These studies begin to elucidate a nutrient-responsive signaling network that controls metabolic gene transcription in Drosophila.