Recent studies in Drosophila have shown that heparan sulfate proteoglycans (HSPGs) are required for Wingless (Wg/Wnt) signaling. In addition, genetic and phenotypic analyses have implicated the glypican gene dally in this process. Here, we report the identification of another Drosophila glypican gene, dally-like (dly) and show that it is also involved in Wg signaling. Inhibition of dly gene activity implicates a function for DLY in Wg reception and we show that overexpression of DLY leads to an accumulation of extracellular Wg. We propose that DLY plays a role in the extracellular distribution of Wg. Consistent with this model, a dramatic decrease of extracellular Wg was detected in clones of cells that are deficient in proper glycosaminoglycan biosynthesis. We conclude that HSPGs play an important role in organizing the extracellular distribution of Wg.
The Drosophila sugarless and sulfateless genes encode enzymes required for the biosynthesis of heparan sulfate glycosaminoglycans. Biochemical studies have shown that heparan sulfate glycosaminoglycans are involved in signaling by fibroblast growth factor receptors, but evidence for such a requirement in an intact organism has not been available. We now demonstrate that sugarless and sulfateless mutant embryos have phenotypes similar to those lacking the functions of two Drosophila fibroblast growth factor receptors, Heartless and Breathless. Moreover, both Heartless- and Breathless-dependent MAPK activation is significantly reduced in embryos which fail to synthesize heparan sulfate glycosaminoglycans. Consistent with an involvement of Sulfateless and Sugarless in fibroblast growth factor receptor signaling, a constitutively activated form of Heartless partially rescues sugarless and sulfateless mutants, and dosage-sensitive interactions occur between heartless and the heparan sulfate glycosaminoglycan biosynthetic enzyme genes. We also find that overexpression of Branchless, the Breathless ligand, can partially overcome the requirement of Sugarless and Sulfateless for Breathless activity. These results provide the first genetic evidence that heparan sulfate glycosaminoglycans are essential for fibroblast growth factor receptor signaling in a well defined developmental context, and support a model in which heparan sulfate glycosaminoglycans facilitate fibroblast growth factor ligand and/or ligand-receptor oligomerization.
We have identified and characterized a Drosophila gene, which we have named sugarless, that encodes a homologue of vertebrate UDP-glucose dehydrogenase. This enzyme is essential for the biosynthesis of various proteoglycans, and we find that in the absence of both maternal and zygotic activities of this gene, mutant embryos develop with segment polarity phenotypes reminiscent to loss of either Wingless or Hedgehog signaling. To analyze the function of Sugarless in cell-cell interaction processes, we have focused our analysis on its requirement for Wingless signaling in different tissues. We report that sugarless mutations impair signaling by Wingless, suggesting that proteoglycans contribute to the reception of Wingless. We demonstrate that overexpression of Wingless can bypass the requirement for sugarless, suggesting that proteoglycans modulate signaling by Wingless, possibly by limiting its diffusion and thereby facilitating the binding of Wingless to its receptor. We discuss the possibility that tissue-specific regulation of proteoglycans may be involved in regulating both Wingless short- or long-range effects.