Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

With Fruit Fly Sex, Researchers Find Mind-Body Connection

04.12.2006
The fruit fly gene “doublesex” is responsible for ensuring that male flies look male and females look female. New Brown University research led by biologist Michael McKeown shows that doublesex not only helps shape bodies but also shapes behavior, acting with together with the gene “fruitless” to guide flies’ courtship routines and responses. The finding, published in Nature Genetics, shows that sexual development in flies – and, perhaps, in humans – is a more complicated proposition than previously thought.

Male fruit flies are smaller and darker than female flies. The hair-like bristles on their forelegs are shorter, thicker. Their sexual equipment, of course, is different, too.

“Doublesex” is the gene largely responsible for these body differences.

Doublesex, new research shows, is responsible for behavior differences as well. The finding, made by Brown University biologists, debunks the notion that sexual mind and sexual body are built by separate sets of genes. Rather, researchers found, doublesex acts in concert with the gene “fruitless” to establish the wing-shaking come-ons and flirtatious flights that mark male and female fly courtship.

... more about:
»McKeown »courtship »doublesex »fruitless »sexual

Results are published in Nature Genetics.

“What we found here, and what is becoming increasingly clear in the field, is that genetic interactions that influence behavior are more complex than we thought,” said Michael McKeown, a Brown biologist who led the research. “In the case of sex-differences in flies, there isn’t a simple two-track genetic system – one that shapes body and one that shapes behavior. Doublesex and fruitless act together to help regulate behavior in the context of other developmental genes.”

How genes contribute to behavior, from aggression to alcoholism, is a growing and contentious area of biology. For more than a decade, McKeown has been steeped in the science, using the fruit fly as a model to understand how genes build a nervous system that, in turn, controls complex behaviors. Since humans and flies have thousands of genes in common, the work can shine a light on the biological roots of human behavior. For example, McKeown recently helped discover a genetic mutation that causes flies to develop symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s disease – a gene very similar to one found in humans.

Some of McKeown’s recent work focuses on understanding gene networks that control sexual behavior. Research on the topic is often contradictory. Some scientists suggest that the fruitless gene, active only in males, controls courtship and sexual receptivity by repressing female behavior and activating male behavior. Other scientists have found that a web of interacting genes control courtship and receptivity. McKeown wanted to settle the debate.

McKeown suspected that multiple genes shape behavior and that doublesex played a role. But experimenting with doublesex is difficult. When both copies of the gene are removed – a powerful way to test gene function – flies have the physical features of both sexes. As a result, these mutant females are not recognized by normal males and these mutant males are not recognized by normal females – and none of the mutants can mate. So this makes it difficult for scientists to categorize their behavior as gender appropriate.

So McKeown raised flies missing one of two copies of doublesex, a process that didn’t completely remove the gene’s influence but drastically reduced it. The result: Flies’ sexual equipment was intact, but, theoretically, their sexual behavior might be different. McKeown and graduate student Troy Shirangi also reduced the activity of the fruitless gene as well as one called “retained.”

Shirangi and McKeown did, indeed, see a doublesex influence. Doublesex helped the males act macho during courting – chasing females, shaking their wings to “sing” love songs, tapping or licking their intended mates. In females, doublesex worked together with the gene retained to make them more receptive to this wooing; Females with two good copies of the gene were more likely to listen to love songs and to copulate. Interestingly, reducing the activity of doublesex or retained also allowed females to court like males, even though they lack the male-behavior-inducing activity of fruitless.

By manipulating fruitless and retained in other experiments, McKeown and his team found critical interactions, or overlaps, in the “mind” and “body” pathways. Retained acts in both sexes, repressing male courting behavior and boosting female receptivity. Fruitless and doublesex act together, as a switch system, to affect this sexual behavior.

“The big story is the crossover between the ‘mind’ and ‘body’ pathways,” McKeown said. “If sexual behaviors are genetically controlled in humans, I expect that this system would be just as much, if not more, complicated.”

Shirangi, a graduate student in the Department of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry at Brown, was lead author of the Nature Genetics article. Barbara Taylor, an associate professor of zoology at Oregon State University, also took part in the fly research.

The National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health funded the work.

Editors: Brown University has a fiber link television studio available for domestic and international live and taped interviews and maintains an ISDN line for radio interviews. For more information, call the Office of Media Relations at (401) 863-2476.

Wendy Lawton | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.brown.edu

Further reports about: McKeown courtship doublesex fruitless sexual

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht How cheetahs stay fit and healthy
24.03.2017 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.

nachricht When Air is in Short Supply - Shedding light on plant stress reactions when oxygen runs short
23.03.2017 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA examines Peru's deadly rainfall

24.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

What does congenital Zika syndrome look like?

24.03.2017 | Health and Medicine

Steep rise of the Bernese Alps

24.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>