IMP Director Barry Dickson and his group are interested in the genetic basis of innate behaviour. They focus on the reproductive behaviour of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. Two years ago, the team was able to identify the fruitless gene as a key regulator of mating behaviour.
For 20 years, scientists have been trying to identify another molecular switch which changes the behaviour of female insects after mating. It makes them lose interest in further sexual contact and start laying eggs. Mosquitoes, once fertilized, look out for a meal of blood and may transmit the malaria parasite along the way.
The trigger for the behavioral switch is a factor present in the seminal fluid of male insects. This sex peptide (SP), as it is called in Drosophila, has been known to scientists for quite a while. Nilay Yapici, a PhD student in Barry Dickson’s team, has now identified the receptor (SPR) responsible for the effect of SP and thus revealed the underlying molecular mechanism. She also showed that the gene for SPR is active in the reproductive organs as well as the brain of the flies.
To get this far, it took two years of painstaking work and a scientific tool which was developed over the past few years by the Dickson group. This “Drosophila RNAi Library” is a collection of 22,000 fly strains and has recently been made available to researchers worldwide. Due to this collection, it is now possible to switch off any chosen gene in the fly. By doing so, neurobiologists are able to identify genes that influence behaviour.
Nilay Yapici studied 22,000 female flies and observed how they behaved after mating. In 130 cases, she found flies which continued to mate and laid very few or no eggs. Further evaluation of these genes and subsequent experiments with cell cultures led to the identification of the long-sought receptor, SPR. By activating or disrupting SPR in specific neurons, the receptor could be localized in the central nervous system of the fly.
Apart from the benefit to basic research, the discovery might offer new approaches for controlling the reproductive or host-seeking behaviours of various agricultural pests and human disease carriers. The molecular mechanism has remained remarkably stable in the course of evolution and SPR-like receptors can be found in many insect species. Ms. Yapici thinks that “It might be possible to develop a substance that blocks the receptor SPR. This inhibitor would work as a kind of ‘birth control pill’: female insects would continue to mate but would not lay eggs.”
What happens in the cell nucleus after fertilization
06.12.2016 | Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt
Researchers uncover protein-based “cancer signature”
05.12.2016 | Universität Basel
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
06.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering
06.12.2016 | Earth Sciences
06.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy