Drosophila Tribbles (Trbl) encodes the founding member of the Trib family of kinase-like proteins that regulate cell migration, proliferation, growth and homeostasis. Trbl was identified in a misexpression screen in the ovary as an antagonist of border cell migration and acts in part by directing turnover of the C/EBP protein encoded by the gene slow border cells (slbo). The ability of mammalian Trib isoforms to promote C/EBP turnover during tissue differentiation indicates that this function is highly conserved. To better understand the role of Trbl in cell migration, we tested specific Trbl antisera, a trbl null allele and Trbl transgenes bearing site-directed mutations. Trbl is expressed at high levels in the nuclei of follicle cell epithelia and is downregulated in delaminating epithelia as expression of Slbo (C/EBP) is upregulated. This complementary pattern of expression during subsequent cell migration is achieved by negative feedback whereby slbo represses Trbl expression and trbl is necessary and sufficient to promote Slbo protein turnover. A series of point mutations that scan the conserved kinase domain of Trbl reveal that the conserved DLK catalytic loop is required for Trbl-Slbo binding and turnover, as well as for interactions between Trbl subunits, suggesting a mechanism of Trbl function.
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