First-author publication for Poojitha Sitaram (Laurie Lee Lab)

An article entitled Regulation of dynein localization and centrosome positioning by Lis-1 and asunder during Drosophila spermatogenesis was published in the August issue of Development. Congratulations Pooji!


Dynein, a microtubule motor complex, plays crucial roles in cell-cycle progression in many systems. The LIS1 accessory protein directly binds dynein, although its precise role in regulating dynein remains unclear. Mutation of human LIS1 causes lissencephaly, a developmental brain disorder. To gain insight into the in vivo functions of LIS1, we characterized a male-sterile allele of the Drosophila homolog of human LIS1. We found that centrosomes do not properly detach from the cell cortex at the onset of meiosis in most Lis-1 spermatocytes; centrosomes that do break cortical associations fail to attach to the nucleus. In Lis-1 spermatids, we observed loss of attachments between the nucleus, basal body and mitochondria. The localization pattern of LIS-1 protein throughout Drosophila spermatogenesis mirrors that of dynein. We show that dynein recruitment to the nuclear surface and spindle poles is severely reduced in Lis-1 male germ cells. We propose that Lis-1 spermatogenesis phenotypes are due to loss of dynein regulation, as we observed similar phenotypes in flies null for Tctex-1, a dynein light chain. We have previously identified asunder (asun) as another regulator of dynein localization and centrosome positioning during Drosophila spermatogenesis. We now report that Lis-1 is a strong dominant enhancer of asun and that localization of LIS-1 in male germ cells is ASUN dependent. We found that Drosophila LIS-1 and ASUN colocalize and coimmunoprecipitate from transfected cells, suggesting that they function within a common complex. We present a model in which Lis-1 and asun cooperate to regulate dynein localization and centrosome positioning during Drosophila spermatogenesis.

First-author publication for Ali Hanson (Ethan Lee Lab)

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A research article entitled XIAP monoubiquitylates Groucho/TLE to promote canonical Wnt signaling was published in the March issue of Molecular Cell. Congratulations Ali!


A key event in Wnt signaling is conversion of TCF/Lef from a transcriptional repressor to an activator, yet how this switch occurs is not well understood. Here, we report an unanticipated role for X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis (XIAP) in regulating this critical Wnt signaling event that is independent of its antiapoptotic function. We identified DIAP1 as a positive regulator of Wingless signaling in a Drosophila S2 cell-based RNAi screen. XIAP, its vertebrate homolog, is similarly required for Wnt signaling in cultured mammalian cells and in Xenopus embryos, indicating evolutionary conservation of function. Upon Wnt pathway activation, XIAP is recruited to TCF/Lef where it monoubiquitylates Groucho (Gro)/TLE. This modification decreases affinity of Gro/TLE for TCF/Lef. Our data reveal a transcriptional switch involving XIAP-mediated ubiquitylation of Gro/TLE that facilitates its removal from TCF/Lef, thus allowing β-catenin-TCF/Lef complex assembly and initiation of a Wnt-specific transcriptional program

Review about Xenopus egg extracts as tools for biochemical screenings

A review entitled “Screening for small molecule inhibitors of embryonic pathways: sometimes you gotta crack a few eggs” was published in Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry. An article that summarizes the benefits of the Xenopus egg extract system as a tool to study cellular processes and proposes the use of this system for screening for modulators of major signal transduction pathways.


Extract prepared from Xenopus eggs represents a cell-free system that has been shown to recapitulate a multitude of cellular processes, including cell cycle regulation, DNA replication/repair, and cytoskeletal dynamics. In addition, this system has been used to successfully reconstitute the Wnt pathway. Xenopus egg extract, which can be biochemically manipulated, offers an ideal medium in which small molecule screening can be performed in near native milieu. Thus, the use of Xenopus egg extract for small molecule screening represents an ideal bridge between targeted and phenotypic screening approaches. This review focuses on the use of this system for small molecules modulators of major signal transduction pathways (Notch, Hedgehog, and Wnt) that are critical for the development of the early Xenopus embryo. We describe the properties of Xenopus egg extract and our own high throughput screen for small molecules that modulate the Wnt pathway using this cell-free system. We propose that Xenopus egg extract could similarly be adapted for screening for modulators of the Notch and Hedgehog pathways.