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Title: Regulation and reproductive functions of membrane-bound vesicles secreted by the Drosophila male accessory gland
Author: Corrigan, Laura
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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Membrane-bound vesicle secretion provides a novel intercellular communication mechanism, whose roles and regulation remain poorly characterised, particularly in vivo. I have identified two classes of lipid-containing, vesicle-like structures secreted into seminal fluid by epithelial cells of the Drosophila male accessory gland (AG). Exosomes, one class of membrane-bound vesicle formed inside late endosomal multivesicular bodies, are specifically secreted by secondary cells (SCs). The unusual cell biology of SCs allowed me to develop a powerful new high resolution in vivo system to characterise the mechanisms underlying intracellular membrane trafficking events underlying exosome biogenesis using real-time live imaging. I characterise how specific ESCRTs (endosomal sorting complexes required for transport) control SC exosome biogenesis, and identify a novel role for BMP signalling in regulating endolysosomal trafficking events necessary for exosome secretion. I also identify roles for epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and phosphatidylinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) signalling in exosome biogenesis. Importantly, SC exosomes are transferred to females during mating. Here, they fuse with sperm, mirroring in vitro interactions between human prostate exosomes and sperm, and interact with the female reproductive tract epithelium. Blocking SC exosome production specifically suppresses post-mating effects on female receptivity to remating, demonstrating that exosomes have an important reproductive signalling function in vivo, directly or indirectly reprogramming female cells. Finally, I show that main cells, the major epithelial AG cell type, shed lipid-containing microvesicle-like structures from their apical surface. Remarkably, these vesicles carry the seminal peptide, sex peptide, into females during mating and also contribute to the anterior mating plug. In summary, my data reveal previously unsuspected roles for exosomes and microvesicles in Drosophila reproduction that may be evolutionarily conserved. Since these vesicles mediate physiological processes previously thought to involve soluble peptides, my work suggests that current models explaining male reprogramming of female behaviours in flies and higher organisms need substantial revision.
Supervisor: Wilson, Clive Sponsor: Wellcome Trust
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Cell Biology (see also Plant sciences) ; Genetics (life sciences) ; Exosomes ; Drosophila ; cell signalling ; reproduction