Background: The Hippo tumor-suppressor pathway has emerged as a key signaling pathway that controls tissue size in Drosophila. Hippo signaling restricts tissue size by promoting apoptosis and cell-cycle arrest, and animals carrying clones of cells mutant for hippo develop severely overgrown adult structures. The Hippo pathway is thought to exert its effects by modulating gene expression through the phosphorylation of the transcriptional coactivator Yorkie. However, how Yorkie regulates growth, and thus the identities of downstream target genes that mediate the effects of Hippo signaling, are largely unknown.
Results: Here, we report that the bantam microRNA is a downstream target of the Hippo signaling pathway. In common with Hippo signaling, the bantam microRNA controls tissue size by regulating cell proliferation and apoptosis. We found that hippo mutant cells had elevated levels of bantam activity and that bantam was required for Yorkie-driven overgrowth. Additionally, overexpression of bantam was sufficient to rescue growth defects of yorkie mutant cells and to suppress the cell death induced by Hippo hyperactivation. Hippo regulates bantam independently of cyclin E and diap1, two other Hippo targets, and overexpression of bantam mimics overgrowth phenotypes of hippo mutant cells.
Conclusions: Our data indicate that bantam is an essential target of the Hippo signaling pathway to regulate cell proliferation, cell death, and thus tissue size.