Determining the role of a small GTPase, Ral, and an endocytic factor, epsin, in Drosophila Notch signaling
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Cell-cell communication events are crucial to determine the fate of each cell during development. Notch signaling is involved in many different contexts in determining cell fate by mediating cell-cell communication. Furthermore, regulation of the Notch transduction pathway is critical for normal cellular function, which is implicated in various diseases, including cancers. At a certain developmental time point, intrinsic or extrinsic developmental cues induce biases in ligands and Notch receptors between neighboring cells. These initial biases are further amplified by various cellular factors which eventually dictate cell fates. In Drosophila, two Notch ligands, Delta and Serrate, trigger Notch receptor activation in nearby cells by virtue of numerous regulating factors. One important question in this area is how cells become Notch signal sending or receiving cells for cell fate decisions. I show evidence about a distinct mechanism for biasing the direction of Notch signaling that depends on a small GTPase, Ral, during Drosophila photoreceptor cell development. Investigations described here indicate that Fz signaling up-regulates Ral transcription in a signal sending fate cell, the R3 precursor, and Ral represses ligand-independent activation of Notch in the R3 precursor. This event ensures R3 to become a signaler and contributes to asymmetric Notch activation in the neighboring cell, R4. Ral is a small Ras-like GTPase that regulates membrane trafficking and signaling. Here, possible Ral effector pathways that are important for Notch regulation will be proposed. To trigger Notch activation in adjacent cells, Notch ligand endocytosis by the signaling cells is necessary. Recently, it was suggested that control of membrane trafficking is important not only for ligand signaling, but also for Notch receptor activation. Furthermore, Notch receptor trafficking regulates critical cellular functions, including proliferation, which is implicated in tumors. Therefore, another important question in Notch signaling is about the role of membrane trafficking in regulation of the Notch transduction pathway. Drosophila endocytic epsin, Liquid facets [Lqf], is a key component necessary for ligand endocytosis, thereby triggering Notch activation in adjacent cells. However, its function in signal receiving cells for Notch activation has not been studied. In this dissertation, I provide evidence that epsin is also required in signal receiving cells for Notch activation in developmental contexts. Furthermore, genetic and molecular evidence suggests that epsin regulates Notch receptor trafficking via Rab5-mediated endosomal sorting pathway for Notch activation. These studies support the idea that Notch activation at the plasma membrane is not the only way to transduce Notch signaling, but the Notch receptor must enter through an epsin-mediated endocytic pathway into subcellular compartments to be activated, at least in some contexts.