Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Genes that paint fly derrieres hint at convergence

21.08.2003


Nicolas Gompel, postdoctoral fellow in molecular biology, uses a sweeping net to catch fruit flies in the University Housing community garden. Gompel researches the genes that drive differences in pigmentation in fruit flies (genus Drosophila), using flies caught in his apartment and around the University Housing community garden compost heap.
Photo by: Michael Forster Rothbart


This male fruit fly (Zaprionus vittiger) devoid of abdominal pigments illustrates the morphological diversity of abdominal pigmentation in Drosophilidae. Nicolas Gompel, postdoctoral fellow in molecular biology, researched the genes that drive differences in pigmentation in fruit flies (genus Drosophila), using this fly from a species stock center and other flies caught at his University Housing apartment and at the University Housing community garden compost heap.

Photo by: Nicolas Gompel


How vastly different animals arrive at the same body plan or pattern of ornamentation has long been a conundrum of developmental biology.

But now, thanks to the colorful derriere of a wild fruit fly, captured on a compost heap by a University of Wisconsin-Madison post-doctoral student, scientists have been able to document a rare example of molecular convergence, the process by which different animals use the same genes to repeatedly invent similar body patterns and structures.

Writing in the current issue (Aug. 21) of the journal Nature, a group led by Sean Carroll and Nicolas Gompel of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) at UW-Madison, describes the genetic mechanisms that control the colors and patterns on fruit fly abdomens. The study suggests that the simple modulation of a transcription factor, a protein that can bind to DNA and influence its activity, may be responsible for governing the diversity of body color patterns among related animal species.



"At the visual level, evolution repeats itself," Carroll explains. "Insects evolved wings. Birds evolved wings. Bats evolved wings. The question we are asking is - in related animals like insects, for example - did they arrive at these body plans or decorations in the same way?"

Conveniently, the answer was found with the help of a wild fruit fly, captured by Gompel, a post-doctoral fellow. Pursuing his hobby of collecting and systematizing insects near a wooded tract close to Eagle Heights, a housing complex for UW-Madison students and their families, Gompel captured a wild fruit fly that looked very much like the species Drosophila melanogaster, the workhorse of many modern genetics laboratories.

"I found a Drosophila with a pattern of pigmentation similar to melanogaster, though this species was obviously very distant," Gompel explains. "I bred it and studied it, and found that the genetics underlying its pigment pattern was similar to melanogaster."

By comparing the molecular workings of the captured fly, and other fly species snared or otherwise acquired by Gompel, the Wisconsin group was able to find genetic commonalities across 13 species covering the various branches of the fruit fly family.

They found that a common gene known as ’Bric-a-brac2’ is selectively influenced - tweaked by transcription factors - to produce a wide range of pattern and color pigmentation on the abdomens of fruit flies across many species.

The discovery of this example of molecular convergence, according to Carroll and Gompel, provides biologists with new insight into how genes that are shared by many animals can be used in different ways to influence body plans.

"We wanted to know, are these things crossing the same bridge to get to a desired destination," Carroll explains. "The answer, we found, was yes and no. There are other ways across the river. "

In some instances, Carroll and Gompel found that the genetic mechanism or bridge to influence the gene was blocked. "It was not open for business in some of these groups," Carroll says. "But what we learned was that similar (body) patterns can evolve in both as animals use the same path or a different route" to the same end.

A related mechanism may be at work in the familiar ladybird beetle, Carroll suggests, as it is known that one can get "boatloads of different patterns using the same genes. In that case, diversity is accomplished through the same mechanism.

"You can take one (genetic) player, tinker with it and get all these different patterns," he says. "But you can still get similar patterns without touching the same brush," he says.

Diversity is a key point, says Gompel, because it is an important aspect of natural history, and its evolutionary and developmental bases are not well understood by biologists.

"If you look at other animals - cats, for instance - you’ll see a very broad range of color patterns that are just different overlays on the same body plan. You can extend this overlay rule to land snails, king snakes, hummingbirds, butterflies and so on," he says.

Because the patterns are complex and their range is extensive, it is often assumed that the genetics that underpin them are complex. But the Wisconsin study, Gompel says, suggests that the molecular basis for such diversity can be narrowed down to a reasonably simple genetic game plan.

"We’ve looked at fly species that are in the same range of morphological divergence as the house cat, the leopard, the cheetah and the panther," he says.

In that context, Gompel says, it demonstrates how a few genes, influenced in subtle ways, can control body decoration, coloring and patterning across the animal kingdom.


Terry Devitt 608-262-8282, trdevitt@facstaff.wisc.edu

CONTACT: Nicolas Gompel 608-262-7898, ngompel@wisc.edu;
Sean Carroll 608-262-6191, sbcarrol@wisc.edu

Terry Devitt | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.news.wisc.edu/newsphotos/gompel.html

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Cancer diagnosis: no more needles?
25.05.2018 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

nachricht Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found
25.05.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Alternsforschung - Fritz-Lipmann-Institut e.V. (FLI)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Powerful IT security for the car of the future – research alliance develops new approaches

The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.

Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...

Im Focus: Molecular switch will facilitate the development of pioneering electro-optical devices

A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.

The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Flow probes from the 3D printer

25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering

Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found

25.05.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>