The immunoglobulin-like protein Hibris functions as a dose-dependent regulator of myoblast fusion and is differentially controlled by Ras and Notch signaling.
Hibris (Hbs) is a transmembrane immunoglobulin-like protein that shows extensive homology to Drosophila Sticks and stones (Sns) and human kidney protein Nephrin. Hbs is expressed in embryonic visceral, somatic and pharyngeal mesoderm among other tissues. In the somatic mesoderm, Hbs is restricted to fusion competent myoblasts and is regulated by Notch and Ras signaling pathways. Embryos that lack or overexpress hbs show a partial block of myoblast fusion, followed by abnormal muscle morphogenesis. Abnormalities in visceral mesoderm are also observed. In vivo mapping of functional domains suggests that the intracellular domain mediates Hbs activity. Hbs and its paralog, Sns, co-localize at the cell membrane of fusion-competent myoblasts. The two proteins act antagonistically: loss of sns dominantly suppresses the hbs myoblast fusion and visceral mesoderm phenotypes, and enhances Hbs overexpression phenotypes. Data from a P-homed enhancer reporter into hbs and co-localization studies with Sns suggest that hbs is not continuously expressed in all fusion-competent myoblasts during the fusion process. We propose that the temporal pattern of hbs expression within fusion-competent myoblasts may reflect previously undescribed functional differences within this myoblast population.