David L Stern

Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Maryland, United States

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Publications (74)754.19 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Male-specific products of the fruitless (fru) gene control the development and function of neuronal circuits that underlie male-specific behaviors in Drosophila, including courtship. Alternative splicing generates at least three distinct Fru isoforms, each containing a different zinc-finger domain. Here, we examine the expression and function of each of these isoforms. We show that most fru(+) cells express all three isoforms, yet each isoform has a distinct function in the elaboration of sexually dimorphic circuitry and behavior. The strongest impairment in courtship behavior is observed in fru(C) mutants, which fail to copulate, lack sine song, and do not generate courtship song in the absence of visual stimuli. Cellular dimorphisms in the fru circuit are dependent on Fru(C) rather than other single Fru isoforms. Removal of Fru(C) from the neuronal classes vAB3 or aSP4 leads to cell-autonomous feminization of arborizations and loss of courtship in the dark. These data map specific aspects of courtship behavior to the level of single fru isoforms and fru(+) cell types-an important step toward elucidating the chain of causality from gene to circuit to behavior.
    Current biology: CB 01/2014; · 10.99 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Many animals utilize acoustic signals-or songs-to attract mates. During courtship, Drosophila melanogaster males vibrate a wing to produce trains of pulses and extended tone, called pulse and sine song, respectively. Courtship songs in the genus Drosophila are exceedingly diverse, and different song features appear to have evolved independently of each other. How the nervous system allows such diversity to evolve is not understood. Here, we identify a wing muscle in D. melanogaster (hg1) that is uniquely male-enlarged. The hg1 motoneuron and the sexually dimorphic development of the hg1 muscle are required specifically for the sine component of the male song. In contrast, the motoneuron innervating a sexually monomorphic wing muscle, ps1, is required specifically for a feature of pulse song. Thus, individual wing motor pathways can control separate aspects of courtship song and may provide a "modular" anatomical substrate for the evolution of diverse songs.
    Cell reports. 10/2013;
  • David L Stern
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    ABSTRACT: The evolution of phenotypic similarities between species, known as convergence, illustrates that populations can respond predictably to ecological challenges. Convergence often results from similar genetic changes, which can emerge in two ways: the evolution of similar or identical mutations in independent lineages, which is termed parallel evolution; and the evolution in independent lineages of alleles that are shared among populations, which I call collateral genetic evolution. Evidence for parallel and collateral evolution has been found in many taxa, and an emerging hypothesis is that they result from the fact that mutations in some genetic targets minimize pleiotropic effects while simultaneously maximizing adaptation. If this proves correct, then the molecular changes underlying adaptation might be more predictable than has been appreciated previously.
    Nature Reviews Genetics 10/2013; · 41.06 Impact Factor
  • Deniz F Erezyilmaz, David L Stern
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    ABSTRACT: Holometabolous insects pass through a sedentary pupal stage and often choose a location for pupation that is different from the site of larval feeding. We have characterized a difference in pupariation site choice within and between sibling species of Drosophila. We found that, in nature, Drosophila sechellia pupariate within their host fruit, Morinda citrifolia, and that they perform this behavior in laboratory assays. In contrast, in the laboratory, geographically diverse strains of Drosophila simulans vary in their pupariation site preference; D. simulans lines from the ancestral range in southeast Africa pupariate on fruit, or a fruit substitute, whereas populations from Europe or the New World select sites off of fruit. We explored the genetic basis for the evolved preference in puariation site preference by performing quantitative trait locus mapping within and between species. We found that the interspecific difference is controlled largely by loci on chromosomes X and II. In contrast, variation between two strains of D. simulans appears to be highly polygenic, with the majority of phenotypic effects due to loci on chromosome III. These data address the genetic basis of how new traits arise as species diverge and populations disperse.
    Evolution 09/2013; 67(9):2714-27. · 4.86 Impact Factor
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    Justin Crocker, David L Stern
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    ABSTRACT: We tested whether transcription activator-like effectors (TALEs) could mediate repression and activation of endogenous enhancers in the Drosophila genome. TALE repressors (TALERs) targeting each of the five even-skipped (eve) stripe enhancers generated repression specifically of the focal stripes. TALE activators (TALEAs) targeting the eve promoter or enhancers caused increased expression primarily in cells normally activated by the promoter or targeted enhancer, respectively. This effect supports the view that repression acts in a dominant fashion on transcriptional activators and that the activity state of an enhancer influences TALE binding or the ability of the VP16 domain to enhance transcription. In these assays, the Hairy repression domain did not exhibit previously described long-range transcriptional repression activity. The phenotypic effects of TALER and TALEA expression in larvae and adults are consistent with the observed modulations of eve expression. TALEs thus provide a novel tool for detection and functional modulation of transcriptional enhancers in their native genomic context.
    Nature Methods 06/2013; · 23.57 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: In most species of aphid, female nymphs develop into either sexual or asexual adults depending on the length of the photoperiod to which their mothers were exposed. The progeny of these sexual and asexual females, in turn, develop in dramatically different ways. The fertilized oocytes of sexual females begin embryogenesis after being deposited on leaves (oviparous development) while the oocytes of asexual females complete embryogenesis within the mother (viviparous development). Compared with oviparous development, viviparous development involves a smaller transient oocyte surrounded by fewer somatic epithelial cells and a smaller early embryo that comprises fewer cells. To investigate whether patterning mechanisms differ between the earliest stages of the oviparous and viviparous modes of pea aphid development, we examined the expression of pea aphid orthologs of genes known to specify embryonic termini in other insects. RESULTS: Here we show that pea aphid oviparous ovaries express torso-like in somatic posterior follicle cells and activate ERK MAP kinase at the posterior of the oocyte. In addition to suggesting that some posterior features of the terminal system are evolutionarily conserved, our detection of activated ERK in the oocyte, rather than in the embryo, suggests that pea aphids may transduce the terminal signal using a mechanism distinct from the one used in Drosophila. In contrast with oviparous development, the pea aphid version of the terminal system does not appear to be used during viviparous development, since we did not detect expression of torso-like in the somatic epithelial cells that surround either the oocyte or the blastoderm embryo and we did not observe restricted activated ERK in the oocyte. CONCLUSIONS: We suggest that while oviparous oocytes and embryos may specify posterior fate through an aphid terminal system, viviparous oocytes and embryos employ a different mechanism, perhaps one that does not rely on an interaction between the oocyte and surrounding somatic cells. Together, these observations provide a striking example of a difference in the fundamental events of early development that is both environmentally induced and encoded by the same genome.
    EvoDevo 04/2013; 4(1):10. · 3.91 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Drosophila melanogaster has served as a powerful model system for genetic studies of courtship songs. To accelerate research on the genetic and neural mechanisms underlying courtship song, we have developed a sensitive recording system to simultaneously capture the acoustic signals from 32 separate pairs of courting flies as well as software for automated segmentation of songs. RESULTS: Our novel hardware design enables recording of low amplitude sounds in most laboratory environments. We demonstrate the power of this system by collecting, segmenting and analyzing over 18 hours of courtship song from 75 males from five wild-type strains of Drosophila melanogaster. Our analysis reveals previously undetected modulation of courtship song features and extensive natural genetic variation for most components of courtship song. Despite having a large dataset with sufficient power to detect subtle modulations of song, we were unable to identify previously reported periodic rhythms in the inter-pulse interval of song. We provide detailed instructions for assembling the hardware and for using our open-source segmentation software. CONCLUSIONS: Analysis of a large dataset of acoustic signals from Drosophila melanogaster provides novel insight into the structure and dynamics of species-specific courtship songs. Our new system for recording and analyzing fly acoustic signals should therefore greatly accelerate future studies of the genetics, neurobiology and evolution of courtship song.
    BMC Biology 01/2013; 11(1):11. · 6.53 Impact Factor
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    Shuji Shigenobu, David L Stern
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    ABSTRACT: Aphids evolved novel cells, called bacteriocytes, that differentiate specifically to harbour the obligatory mutualistic endosymbiotic bacteria Buchnera aphidicola. The genome of the host aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum contains many orphan genes that display no similarity with genes found in other sequenced organisms, prompting us to hypothesize that some of these orphan genes are related to lineage-specific traits, such as symbiosis. We conducted deep sequencing of bacteriocytes mRNA followed by whole mount in situ hybridizations of over-represented transcripts encoding aphid-specific orphan proteins. We identified a novel class of genes that encode small proteins with signal peptides, which are often cysteine-rich, that are over-represented in bacteriocytes. These genes are first expressed at a developmental time point coincident with the incorporation of symbionts strictly in the cells that contribute to the bacteriocyte and this bacteriocyte-specific expression is maintained throughout the aphid's life. The expression pattern suggests that recently evolved secretion proteins act within bacteriocytes, perhaps to mediate the symbiosis with beneficial bacterial partners, which is reminiscent of the evolution of novel cysteine-rich secreted proteins of leguminous plants that regulate nitrogen-fixing endosymbionts.
    Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 01/2013; 280(1750):20121952. · 5.68 Impact Factor
  • David L Stern, Nicolás Frankel
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    ABSTRACT: In this paper, we provide a historical account of the contribution of a single line of research to our current understanding of the structure of cis-regulatory regions and the genetic basis for morphological evolution. We revisit the experiments that shed light on the evolution of larval cuticular patterns within the genus Drosophila and the evolution and structure of the shavenbaby gene. We describe the experiments that led to the discovery that multiple genetic changes in the cis-regulatory region of shavenbaby caused the loss of dorsal cuticular hairs (quaternary trichomes) in first instar larvae of Drosophila sechellia. We also discuss the experiments that showed that the convergent loss of quaternary trichomes in D. sechellia and Drosophila ezoana was generated by parallel genetic changes in orthologous enhancers of shavenbaby. We discuss the observation that multiple shavenbaby enhancers drive overlapping patterns of expression in the embryo and that these apparently redundant enhancers ensure robust shavenbaby expression and trichome morphogenesis under stressful conditions. All together, these data, collected over 13 years, provide a fundamental case study in the fields of gene regulation and morphological evolution, and highlight the importance of prolonged, detailed studies of single genes.
    Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences 01/2013; 368(1632):20130028. · 6.23 Impact Factor
  • Nicolás Frankel, Shu Wang, David L Stern
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    ABSTRACT: Similar morphological, physiological, and behavioral features have evolved independently in different species, a pattern known as convergence. It is known that morphological convergence can occur through changes in orthologous genes. In some cases of convergence, cis-regulatory changes generate parallel modifications in the expression patterns of orthologous genes. Our understanding of how changes in cis-regulatory regions contribute to convergence is hampered, usually, by a limited understanding of the global cis-regulatory structure of the evolving genes. Here we examine the genetic causes of a case of precise phenotypic convergence between Drosophila sechellia and Drosophila ezoana, species that diverged ∼40 Mya. Previous studies revealed that changes in multiple transcriptional enhancers of shavenbaby (svb, a transcript of the ovo locus) caused phenotypic evolution in the D. sechellia lineage. It has also been shown that the convergent phenotype of D. ezoana was likely caused by cis-regulatory evolution of svb. Here we show that the large-scale cis-regulatory architecture of svb is conserved between these Drosophila species. Furthermore, we show that the D. ezoana orthologs of the evolved D. sechellia enhancers have also evolved expression patterns that correlate precisely with the changes in the phenotype. Our results suggest that phenotypic convergence resulted from multiple noncoding changes that occurred in parallel in the D. sechellia and D. ezoana lineages.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 11/2012; · 9.74 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The transition from outcrossing to predominant self-fertilization is one of the most common evolutionary transitions in flowering plants. This shift is often accompanied by a suite of changes in floral and reproductive characters termed the selfing syndrome. Here, we characterize the genetic architecture and evolutionary forces underlying evolution of the selfing syndrome in Capsella rubella following its recent divergence from the outcrossing ancestor C. grandiflora. We conduct genotyping by multiplexed shotgun sequencing and map floral and reproductive traits in a large (N= 550) F2 population. Our results suggest that in contrast to previous studies of the selfing syndrome, changes at a few loci, some with major effects, have shaped the evolution of the selfing syndrome in Capsella. The directionality of QTL effects, as well as population genetic patterns of polymorphism and divergence at 318 loci, is consistent with a history of directional selection on the selfing syndrome. Our study is an important step toward characterizing the genetic basis and evolutionary forces underlying the evolution of the selfing syndrome in a genetically accessible model system.
    Evolution 05/2012; 66(5):1360-74. · 4.86 Impact Factor
  • David L Stern, Elio Sucena
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    ABSTRACT: The Drosophila cuticle carries a rich array of morphological details. Thus, cuticle examination has had a central role in the history of genetics. This protocol describes a procedure for mounting adult cuticles in Hoyer's medium, a useful mountant for both larval and adult cuticles. The medium digests soft tissues rapidly, leaving the cuticle cleared for observation. In addition, samples can be transferred directly from water to Hoyer's medium. However, specimens mounted in Hoyer's medium degrade over time. For example, the fine denticles on the larval dorsum are best observed soon after mounting; they begin to fade after 1 week, and can disappear completely after several months. More robust features, such as the ventral denticle belts, will persist for a longer period of time. Because adults cannot profitably be mounted whole in Hoyer's medium, some dissection is necessary.
    Cold Spring Harbor Protocols 01/2012; 2012(1):107-9. · 4.63 Impact Factor
  • David L Stern, Elio Sucena
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    ABSTRACT: The Drosophila cuticle carries a rich array of morphological details. Thus, cuticle examination has had a central role in the history of genetics. To prepare fine "museum-quality," permanent slides, it is best to mount specimens in Canada Balsam. It is difficult to give precise recipes for Canada Balsam, because every user seems to prefer a slightly different viscosity. Dilute solutions spread easily and do not dry too rapidly while mounting specimens. The disadvantage is that there is actually less Balsam in a "drop" of the solution, and when dried, it can contract from the sides of the coverslip, sometimes disturbing the specimen. Unfortunately, there is no substitute for experience when using Canada Balsam. This protocol describes a procedure for mounting adult cuticles in Canada Balsam.
    Cold Spring Harbor Protocols 01/2012; 2012(3):373-5. · 4.63 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In Drosophila, male flies perform innate, stereotyped courtship behavior. This innate behavior evolves rapidly between fly species, and is likely to have contributed to reproductive isolation and species divergence. We currently understand little about the neurobiological and genetic mechanisms that contributed to the evolution of courtship behavior. Here we describe a novel behavioral difference between the two closely related species D. yakuba and D. santomea: the frequency of wing rowing during courtship. During courtship, D. santomea males repeatedly rotate their wing blades to face forward and then back (rowing), while D. yakuba males rarely row their wings. We found little intraspecific variation in the frequency of wing rowing for both species. We exploited multiplexed shotgun genotyping (MSG) to genotype two backcross populations with a single lane of Illumina sequencing. We performed quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping using the ancestry information estimated by MSG and found that the species difference in wing rowing mapped to four or five genetically separable regions. We found no evidence that these loci display epistasis. The identified loci all act in the same direction and can account for most of the species difference.
    PLoS ONE 01/2012; 7(8):e43888. · 3.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Morphology evolves often through changes in developmental genes, but the causal mutations, and their effects, remain largely unknown. The evolution of naked cuticle on larvae of Drosophila sechellia resulted from changes in five transcriptional enhancers of shavenbaby (svb), a transcript of the ovo locus that encodes a transcription factor that governs morphogenesis of microtrichiae, hereafter called 'trichomes'. Here we show that the function of one of these enhancers evolved through multiple single-nucleotide substitutions that altered both the timing and level of svb expression. The consequences of these nucleotide substitutions on larval morphology were quantified with a novel functional assay. We found that each substitution had a relatively small phenotypic effect, and that many nucleotide changes account for this large morphological difference. In addition, we observed that the substitutions had non-additive effects. These data provide unprecedented resolution of the phenotypic effects of substitutions and show how individual nucleotide changes in a transcriptional enhancer have caused morphological evolution.
    Nature 06/2011; 47430(7353):598-603. · 38.60 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present a new approach to genotyping based on multiplexed shotgun sequencing that can identify recombination breakpoints in a large number of individuals simultaneously at a resolution sufficient for most mapping purposes, such as quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping and mapping of induced mutations. We first describe a simple library construction protocol that uses just 10 ng of genomic DNA per individual and makes the approach accessible to any laboratory with standard molecular biology equipment. Sequencing this library results in a large number of sequence reads widely distributed across the genomes of multiplexed bar-coded individuals. We develop a Hidden Markov Model to estimate ancestry at all genomic locations in all individuals using these data. We demonstrate the utility of the approach by mapping a dominant marker allele in D. simulans to within 105 kb of its true position using 96 F1-backcross individuals genotyped in a single lane on an Illumina Genome Analyzer. We further demonstrate the utility of our method by genetically mapping more than 400 previously unassembled D. simulans contigs to linkage groups and by evaluating the quality of targeted introgression lines. At this level of multiplexing and divergence between strains, our method allows estimation of recombination breakpoints to a median of 38-kb intervals. Our analysis suggests that higher levels of multiplexing and/or use of strains with lower levels of divergence are practicable.
    Genome Research 01/2011; 21(4):610-7. · 14.40 Impact Factor
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    [show abstract] [hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Morphology evolves often through changes in developmental genes, but the causal mutations, and their effects, remain largely unknown. The evolution of naked cuticle on larvae of Drosophila sechellia resulted from changes in five transcriptional enhancers of shavenbaby (svb), a transcript of the ovo locus that encodes a transcription factor that governs morphogenesis of microtrichiae, hereafter called 'trichomes'. Here we show that the function of one of these enhancers evolved through multiple single-nucleotide substitutions that altered both the timing and level of svb expression. The consequences of these nucleotide substitutions on larval morphology were quantified with a novel functional assay. We found that each substitution had a relatively small phenotypic effect, and that many nucleotide changes account for this large morphological difference. In addition, we observed that the substitutions had non-additive effects. These data provide unprecedented resolution of the phenotypic effects of substitutions and show how individual nucleotide changes in a transcriptional enhancer have caused morphological evolution.
    Nature 01/2011; 474(7353):598-603. · 38.60 Impact Factor
  • David L Stern, Elio Sucena
    [show abstract] [hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The Drosophila cuticle carries a rich array of morphological details. Thus, cuticle examination has had a central role in the history of genetics. Studies of the Drosophila cuticle have focused mainly on first-instar larvae and adult cuticular morphology. Although the cuticles of second- and third-instar larvae are strikingly different from those of the first instar, these differences have been poorly studied. This protocol describes three methods for preparing cuticles from fed larvae. One commonly used procedure involves manually pricking the larvae. A simpler method for preparing larval cuticles is to burst the larvae once they have been mounted. This method is used for first- and second-instar larvae and does not require pricking; it removes the gut contents by "popping" the rear of the embryo using pressure from the coverslip. If just the right amount of medium is used, the coverslip will be pulled toward the slide, applying pressure on the samples. The larvae usually burst from their posterior ends. Also presented is an alternative procedure designed specifically for the use with third-instar larvae, although the "pricking" method can be used at this stage.
    Cold Spring Harbor Protocols 01/2011; 2011(11):1394-8. · 4.63 Impact Factor
  • David L Stern, Elio Sucena
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    ABSTRACT: The finely sculpted cuticle of Drosophila carries a rich array of morphological details. Thus, cuticle examination has had a central role in the history of genetics. Studies of the Drosophila cuticle have focused mainly on first-instar larvae and adult cuticular morphology. This protocol describes the preparation of cuticles from larvae that have not yet hatched from the egg. It is designed for sampling all eggs laid by one or more females. This can be particularly useful, for example, when a mutation produces embryos that are unable to hatch from the egg.
    Cold Spring Harbor Protocols 01/2011; 2011(9). · 4.63 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Aphids are sap-feeding insects that host a range of bacterial endosymbionts including the obligate, nutritional mutualist Buchnera plus several bacteria that are not required for host survival. Among the latter, 'Candidatus Regiella insecticola' and 'Candidatus Hamiltonella defensa' are found in pea aphids and other hosts and have been shown to protect aphids from natural enemies. We have sequenced almost the entire genome of R. insecticola (2.07 Mbp) and compared it with the recently published genome of H. defensa (2.11 Mbp). Despite being sister species the two genomes are highly rearranged and the genomes only have ∼55% of genes in common. The functions encoded by the shared genes imply that the bacteria have similar metabolic capabilities, including only two essential amino acid biosynthetic pathways and active uptake mechanisms for the remaining eight, and similar capacities for host cell toxicity and invasion (type 3 secretion systems and RTX toxins). These observations, combined with high sequence divergence of orthologues, strongly suggest an ancient divergence after establishment of a symbiotic lifestyle. The divergence in gene sets and in genome architecture implies a history of rampant recombination and gene inactivation and the ongoing integration of mobile DNA (insertion sequence elements, prophage and plasmids).
    Environmental Microbiology 08/2010; 12(8):2060-9. · 5.76 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

2k Citations
754.19 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2010–2014
    • Howard Hughes Medical Institute
      Maryland, United States
  • 2001–2013
    • Princeton University
      • Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
      Princeton, NJ, United States
  • 2009
    • University of California, Davis
      • Department of Evolution & Ecology
      Davis, CA, United States
    • Pierre and Marie Curie University - Paris 6
      Lutetia Parisorum, Île-de-France, France
  • 2006
    • Institut Jacques Monod
      Lutetia Parisorum, Île-de-France, France
  • 2005
    • University of Cambridge
      • Department of Zoology
      Cambridge, ENG, United Kingdom
  • 2003
    • The University of Tokyo
      • College of Art and Science & Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
      Tokyo, Tokyo-to, Japan