The histone acetyltransferase Gcn5 is conserved throughout eukaryotes where it functions as part of large multi-subunit transcriptional coactivator complexes that stimulate gene expression. Here, we describe how studies in the model insect Drosophila melanogaster have provided insight into the essential roles played by Gcn5 in the development of multicellular organisms. We outline the composition and activity of the four different Gcn5 complexes in Drosophila: the Spt-Ada-Gcn5 Acetyltransferase (SAGA), Ada2a-containing (ATAC), Ada2/Gcn5/Ada3 transcription activator (ADA), and Chiffon Histone Acetyltransferase (CHAT) complexes. Whereas the SAGA and ADA complexes are also present in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, ATAC has only been identified in other metazoa such as humans, and the CHAT complex appears to be unique to insects. Each of these Gcn5 complexes is nucleated by unique Ada2 homologs or splice isoforms that share conserved N-terminal domains, and differ only in their C-terminal domains. We describe the common and specialized developmental functions of each Gcn5 complex based on phenotypic analysis of mutant flies. In addition, we outline how gene expression studies in mutant flies have shed light on the different biological roles of each complex. Together, these studies highlight the key role that Drosophila has played in understanding the expanded biological function of Gcn5 in multicellular eukaryotes.
Date of this Version
Torres-Zelada EF, Weake VM. The Gcn5 complexes in Drosophila as a model for metazoa. Biochim Biophys Acta Gene Regul Mech. 2021 Feb;1864(2):194610. doi: 10.1016/j.bbagrm.2020.194610.