Molecular and biochemical analysis of the Drosophila segmentation gene runt

Mary A Kania, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Genetic evidence has indicated that the segmentation gene runt plays a key role in regulating gene expression of the pair-rule genes hairy, even-skipped, and fushi tarazu. In contrast to other pair-rule genes, sequence data of the runt open reading frame did not reveal homologies to DNA-binding motifs of known transcriptional regulatory proteins. This thesis project examined several properties of the runt gene based on the sequence of the transcription unit, including the subcellular localization of the protein in vivo, its ability to bind DNA, and the functionality of a putative nucleotide binding domain. A runt-specific antibody was generated and used to demonstrate that runt is localized in the nucleus. Since the precise overlap of the pair-rule stripes is thought to be critical for the determination of cellular identity along the anterior-posterior axis, phasing of early runt expression in the blastoderm was examined with regard to the segmentation genes hairy, even-skipped, and fushi tarazu. runt was also expressed at later stages of embryogenesis, including expression in neuroblasts, and ganglion mother cells of the developing nervous system. Expression at this stage was required for the subsequent formation of specific neurons and runt was extensively expressed in the central and peripheral nervous systems. Several experiments were done to address the biochemical function of the runt protein. A direct interaction of runt with DNA was first examined. Although bacterial expressed runt was found to bind dsDNA-cellulose, subsequent experiments failed to detect sequence-specific interactions with DNA. Inter-species conservation of the putative nucleotide binding domain suggested that this region was functionally important, and runt protein bound a labeled ATP analog with high affinity in vitro. Finally, the effect of substitution of a critical residue of the nucleotide binding domain on runt activity was examined in vivo. Ectopic expression of the mutant protein indicated that this conserved substitution altered, but did not eliminate, runt activity as evaluated by segmentation phenotype and viability.

Subject Area

Molecular biology|Genetics|Neurology

Recommended Citation

Kania, Mary A, "Molecular and biochemical analysis of the Drosophila segmentation gene runt" (1992). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9312169.