Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New research reveals unexpected post-mating gene expression in model lab insect

29.06.2006
That cloud of tiny flies hovering around spoiled fruit isn't just a nuisance. In fact, what science calls Drosophila melanogaster is more and more the key to intricate genetic studies that shed light on numerous biological processes, especially reproduction.

Now, evolutionary and developmental biologists at the University of Georgia and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have uncovered evidence that after fruit flies mate, the presence of sperm and male proteins in the female's reproductive tract sets off an amazing cascade of heretofore undescribed gene activity. Understanding how this works will give scientists new insights into reproduction, but it could also provide methods to safely control the spread of insect pests by interfering with their reproduction.

"We have been able to define a large number of mating-responsive genes that are activated in Drosophila," said Michael Bender, a developmental biologist in the department of genetics at UGA. "There is a lot of potential in this work for uncovering basic aspects of reproductive biology that will be useful in pest-control approaches."

The research was just published in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The work resulted from a collaboration between Bender, Paul Mack, a postdoctoral fellow in the Bender lab at UGA, Yael Heifetz of Hebrew University and Anat Kapelnikov, a graduate student in the Heifetz lab. A number of undergraduates at UGA also worked on the research.

Drosophila has been used as a model animal for nearly a century. It is easy to manipulate in a lab, lives only a few weeks and begins mating soon after hatching. Its entire genetic map or genome has also been sequenced, giving researchers a powerful tool in understanding intricate biological processes and the genes that direct them.

Bender's team, using both the established genomic background of Drosophila and studies of mating insects, showed that the sperm and proteins transferred from males to females during mating have "profound effects" on female gene expression. Most surprising is that gene activity rapidly escalates about six hours after mating--something previously unknown.

"We looked at the reproductive tracts of females at three, six and 24 hours post-mating," said Mack. "Just getting enough material through dissection is extremely difficult and time-consuming, but this kind of time-based evaluation of post-mating gene expression in Drosophila had never been done."

Perhaps surprisingly, very little is known about how gene expression in female reproductive tissues changes in response to the presence of sperm and male molecules. The study compared 3-day-old mated and unmated females and discovered the presence in mated females of a startling 539 genes whose activity changes after mating.

"One novel feature of this research was Paul's decision to look at what happens over time," said Bender. "That's how we found out that the activity hits a peak six hours after mating. This indicates quite a large genetic response in the female tract to male-derived molecules and sperm."

Though considerable research has been done on male Drosophila over the years, relatively little had focused on females. Just why the array of gene expression peaks at 6 hours is not yet clear, but revealing this timing could help in controlling insect pests. That is one reason the research was funded by the Binational Agricultural Research and Development (BARD) Fund, a joint program between the United States and Israel. Since 1979, BARD has funded nearly 900 research projects in almost all 50 states. Support for the research also came from The National Institutes of Health.

The Bender and Heifetz teams weren't operating in the dark, since earlier studies had examined some post-mating gene expression in Drosophila, but that earlier work did not examine expression over a set time period and involved examining the whole bodies of mated insects, not just their reproductive tracts.

The researchers' double approach using genomics and proteomics--the study of proteins and the products they turn on--was especially productive because it allowed them to identify genes they would not have found using a single approach.

"The next step will be to choose a few of the most promising genes and to explore their function in females," said Bender.

Once the gene functions are known, then scientists can begin to examine how to manipulate them--both to study the biology involved and to find potential targets for pest control.

Kim Carlyle | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uga.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New risk factors for anxiety disorders
24.02.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers
24.02.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

New risk factors for anxiety disorders

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

MWC 2017: 5G Capital Berlin

24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>