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Expression of mammalian ASH1 and ASH4 in Drosophila reveals opposing functional roles in neurogenesis

Sun, Boyuan, Tu, Jianbo, Liang, Qing, Cheng, Xinyi, Fan, Xiaolan, Li, Ying, Wallbank, Richard W.R., Yang, Mingyao
Gene 2019 v.688 pp. 132-139
Drosophila, amino acid sequences, amino acids, evolution, gene duplication, genes, humans, loci, mice, neurogenesis, phenotype, regulatory sequences, setae (animal)
To investigate whether the members of the mammalian Achaete-Scute Complex homologue (ASH) gene family have evolved functional differences, we used the patterning of bristles as a phenotypic marker. Drosophila uses a single genetic locus - the Achaete-Scute Complex - to demarcate the regions of the body where bristles can form. We found 4–5 Achaete-Scute Complex homologue genes (ASH) in the mammalian genome, which are homologous with scute in Drosophila. Although ASH2 and ASH3 have gained new functions during evolution, the function of ASH4 and its evolutionary changes are still unclear. In this study, we overexpressed mouse and human ASH1 and ASH4 in the Drosophila notum respectively. The results show that both the protein sequence and cis-regulatory elements of mammalian ASH1 have conserved an ancient proneural function during evolution. However, mouse ASH4 has lost proneural function partly due to truncation of a C-terminal amino acid domain. Interestingly, instead of a similar loss of proneural function, we found human ASH4 can actually inhibit Drosophila bristle development, implying that human ASH4 may be a potential factor relating to skin development in human being. Our results demonstrate gene duplication of the ASH family may have led to a novel function during evolution.