Investigating the role of Bruno interactions with oskar regulatory proteins
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Oskar (Osk) is a posterior body-patterning determinant in Drosophila melanogaster and is highly concentrated at the posterior pole of the oocyte. osk mRNA is translationally repressed until it reaches the posterior of the oocyte where Osk protein is made. Bruno (Bru) represses translation during osk mRNA localization by direct binding, but how Bru-mediated repression is relieved at the posterior of the oocyte is unknown. Two types of Bru protein interactions are implicated in repression of osk: Bru-Cup interaction and Bru dimerization. By mapping the Bru domains that are important for these interactions, I found that the amino-terminal domain of Bru contributes to both interactions, and deletion of this domain caused a defect in translational repression. However point mutations, within the amino-terminal domain, that disrupt both types of interaction in vitro did not interfere with translational repression in vivo. The difference may be due to other factors stabilizing the Bru-Cup interaction in vivo, as the mutant Bru still associates with Cup in vivo. My work supports the model of repression that relies on Bru interaction with Cup. I also build a new model in which Bru dimerization promotes translational activation of osk, based on my unexpected results: dimerization-defective Bru only weakly accumulated Osk::GFP fusion protein encoded by an osk::GFP reporter RNA bearing a Bru-binding region, while dimerization-competent Bru showed the opposite effect. This suggests that dimerization may contribute to switching Bru from a repressor to an activator, with dimerization controlled via a post-translational modification. Consistent with this, I found that a small fraction of Bru in ovaries is phosphorylated. PKA is a positive regulator of osk expression and phosphorylates Bru in vitro. To test if PKA regulation of osk is mediated through Bru, I examined the effect of altering PKA activity on Bru phosphorylation and Bru-mediated repression. Modulating PKA activity caused small, yet detectable changes in Bru phosphorylation and Bru-dependent translational repression using an osk::GFP reporter. However, while the studies with Bru mutants suggest that phosphorylation promotes repression by Bru, these studies argue for a role in promoting activation. Further work will be required to explain these phenomena.