Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation

Genes and Development

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

William W. Mattox

Committee Member

Michelle C. Barton

Committee Member

Thomas A. Cooper

Committee Member

Eric J. Wagner

Committee Member

Ambro van Hoof


Alternative RNA splicing is a critical process that contributes variety to protein functions, and further controls cell differentiation and normal development. Although it is known that most eukaryotic genes produce multiple transcripts in which splice site selection is regulated, how RNA binding proteins cooperate to activate and repress specific splice sites is still poorly understood. In addition how the regulation of alternative splicing affects germ cell development is also not well known. In this study, Drosophila Transformer 2 (Tra2) was used as a model to explore both the mechanism of its repressive function on its own pre-mRNA splicing, and the effect of the splicing regulation on spermatogenesis in testis. Half-pint (Hfp), a protein known as splicing activator, was identified in an S2 cell-based RNAi screen as a co-repressor that functions in combination with Tra2 in the splicing repression of the M1 intron. Its repressive splicing function is found to be sequence specific and is dependent on both the weak 3’ splice site and an intronic splicing silencer within the M1 intron. In addition we found that in vivo, two forms of Hfp are expressed in a cell type specific manner. These alternative forms differ at their amino terminus affecting the presence of a region with four RS dipeptides. Using assays in Drosophila S2 cells, we determined that the alternative N terminal domain is necessary in repression. This difference is probably due to differential localization of the two isoforms in the nucleus and cytoplasm. Our in vivo studies show that both Hfp and Tra2 are required for normal spermatogenesis and cooperate in repression of M1 splicing in spermatocytes. But interestingly, Tra2 and Hfp antagonize each other’s function in regulating germline specific alternative splicing of Taf1 (TBP associated factor 1). Genetic and cytological studies showed that mutants of Hfp and Taf1 both cause similar defects in meiosis and spermatogenesis. These results suggest Hfp regulates normal spermatogenesis partially through the regulation of taf1 splicing. These observations indicate that Hfp regulates tra2 and taf1 activity and play an important role in germ cell differentiation of male flies.