Drosophila models of pathogenic copynumber variant genes show global and nonneuronal defects during development

Tanzeen Yusuff, Matthew Jensen, Sneha Yennawar, Lucilla Pizzo, Siddharth Karthikeyan, Dagny J. Gould, Avik Sarker, Erika Gedvilaite, Yurika Matsui, Janani Iyer, Zhi Chun Lai, Santhosh Girirajan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


While rare pathogenic copy-number variants (CNVs) are associated with both neuronal and non-neuronal phenotypes, functional studies evaluating these regions have focused on the molecular basis of neuronal defects. We report a systematic functional analysis of non-neuronal defects for homologs of 59 genes within ten pathogenic CNVs and 20 neurodevelopmental genes in Drosophila melanogaster. Using wing-specific knockdown of 136 RNA interference lines, we identified qualitative and quantitative phenotypes in 72/79 homologs, including 21 lines with severe wing defects and six lines with lethality. In fact, we found that 10/31 homologs of CNV genes also showed complete or partial lethality at larval or pupal stages with ubiquitous knockdown. Comparisons between eye and wing-specific knockdown of 37/45 homologs showed both neuronal and non-neuronal defects, but with no correlation in the severity of defects. We further observed disruptions in cell proliferation and apoptosis in larval wing discs for 23/27 homologs, and altered Wnt, Hedgehog and Notch signaling for 9/14 homologs, including AATF/Aatf, PPP4C/Pp4-19C, and KIF11/Klp61F. These findings were further supported by tissue-specific differences in expression patterns of human CNV genes, as well as connectivity of CNV genes to signaling pathway genes in brain, heart and kidney-specific networks. Our findings suggest that multiple genes within each CNV differentially affect both global and tissue-specific developmental processes within conserved pathways, and that their roles are not restricted to neuronal functions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1008792
JournalPLoS genetics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Cancer Research


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