Genetic screening of the genes interacting withDrosophila FIG4identified a novel link between CMT-causing gene and long noncoding RNAs

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Neuron-specific knockdown of the dFIG4 gene, a Drosophila homologue of human FIG4 and one of the causative genes for Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT), reduces the locomotive abilities of adult flies, as well as causing defects at neuromuscular junctions, such as reduced synaptic branch length in presynaptic terminals of the motor neurons in third instar larvae. Eye imaginal disc-specific knockdown of dFIG4 induces abnormal morphology of the adult compound eye, the rough eye phenotype. In this study, we carried out modifier screening of the dFIG4 knockdown-induced rough eye phenotype using a set of chromosomal deficiency lines on the second chromosome. By genetic screening, we detected 9 and 15 chromosomal regions whose deletions either suppressed or enhanced the rough eye phenotype induced by the dFIG4 knockdown. By further genetic screening with mutants of individual genes in one of these chromosomal regions, we identified the gene CR18854 that suppressed the rough eye phenotype and the loss-of-cone cell phenotype. The CR18854 gene encodes a long non-coding RNA (lncRNA) consisting of 2566 bases. Mutation and knockdown of CR18854 patially suppressed the enlarged lysosome phenotype induced by Fat body-specific knockdown of dFIG4. Further characterization of CR18854, and a few other lncRNAs in relation to dFIG4 in neuron, using neuron-specific dFIG4 knockdown flies indicated a genetic link between the dFIG4 gene and lncRNAs including CR18854 and hsrω. We also obtained data indicating genetic interaction between CR18854 and Cabeza, a Drosophila homologue of human FUS, which is one of the causing genes for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). These results suggest that lncRNAs such as CR18854 and hsrω are involved in a common pathway in CMT and ALS pathogenesis.

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