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Researchers find gene critical to sense of smell in fruit fly
Date:1/19/2012

ory systems evolved independently, multiple times over history," says Boekhoff-Falk, who has a long-standing interest in evolutionary biology. "But our work challenges that view. We think that when it comes to the olfactory system there may be a common ancestor shared by flies and mammals."

Earlier work by others had shown that the "wiring diagrams," or the arrangements of nerves, involved in olfaction in flies and mammals are similar. However, this was attributed to convergent evolution, the process by which unrelated organisms independently evolve similar traits as a result of having to adapt to similar environments, rather than shared ancestry.

The new work from Boekhoff-Falk's group suggests that the underlying genetic mechanisms used in the developing olfactory systems of flies and mammals are similar.

"This supports the idea that the last common ancestor already had some form of olfactory system," she says, "and that the overall architecture and key elements of the underlying genetics have been well conserved over time."

The long-shared similarity makes studies of fly genes in the olfactory system more relevant to human disease than previously thought, she says.

All told, the findings make the fruit fly a powerful model for investigating dll function.

"We think these studies have the potential to be highly relevant to human biology," says Boekhoff-Falk.


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Contact: Dian Land
dj.land@hosp.wisc.edu
608-261-1034
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Source:Eurekalert

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