Clumsy fruit flies with poor posture are helping an international team of scientists understand inherited intellectual disability in humans and vice versa.
The flies can't hold their wings tightly against their bodies, and have trouble with flying and climbing behaviors, because they have mutations in a gene called dNab2. In humans, mutations in the same gene (with a clunkier name, ZC3H14) have been found to cause intellectual disability (ID) in studies of some Iranian families. ID describes the condition that was previously called mental retardation.
The protein encoded by Nab2/ZC3H14 appears to be part of a group of proteins, including the one disrupted in fragile X syndrome, that regulate brain cell function by binding RNA.
Cross-species comparisons of Nab2/ZC3H14's function are shedding light on how brain cells regulate genes by controlling the length of their RNA "tails." The results are published online in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition.
This unusual collaboration brought together investigators from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin and the University of Social Welfare and Rehabilitation Sciences in Tehran.
The paper's co-first authors are Emory graduate student Chang Hui Pak and Max Planck postdoc Masoud Garshasbi, with senior authors Andreas Kuss, PhD, group leader at the Max Planck Institute, and Anita Corbett, PhD, professor of biochemistry and Ken Moberg, PhD, assistant professor of cell biology at Emory University School of Medicine.
At Emory, Corbett had studied Nab2 in yeast since the 1990s. Her laboratory teamed up with Moberg to look at the function of the gene in fruit flies. Pak, a student in both Corbett's and Moberg's labs, generated flies with mutations in dNab2.
What made those flies easy to spot, next to regular flies, was that the mutant flies kept their
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