Nucleic acids research

bHLH proteins involved in Drosophila neurogenesis are mutually regulated at the level of stability.

PMID 25694512


Proneural bHLH activators are expressed in all neuroectodermal regions prefiguring events of central and peripheral neurogenesis. Drosophila Sc is a prototypical proneural activator that heterodimerizes with the E-protein Daughterless (Da) and is antagonized by, among others, the E(spl) repressors. We determined parameters that regulate Sc stability in Drosophila S2 cells. We found that Sc is a very labile phosphoprotein and its turnover takes place via at least three proteasome-dependent mechanisms. (i) When Sc is in excess of Da, its degradation is promoted via its transactivation domain (TAD). (ii) In a DNA-bound Da/Sc heterodimer, Sc degradation is promoted via an SPTSS phosphorylation motif and the AD1 TAD of Da; Da is spared in the process. (iii) When E(spl)m7 is expressed, it complexes with Sc or Da/Sc and promotes their degradation in a manner that requires the corepressor Groucho and the Sc SPTSS motif. Da/Sc reciprocally promotes E(spl)m7 degradation. Since E(spl)m7 is a direct target of Notch, the mutual destabilization of Sc and E(spl) may contribute in part to the highly conserved anti-neural activity of Notch. Sc variants lacking the SPTSS motif are dramatically stabilized and are hyperactive in transgenic flies. Our results propose a novel mechanism of regulation of neurogenesis, involving the stability of key players in the process.