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Study of fruit fly chromosomes improves understanding of evolution and fertility
Date:8/10/2012

s no other model organism has yielded more insights into human genetics than the tiny fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. In 1906, Thomas Hunt Morgan of Columbia University began work on D. melanogaster, (one of over 1500 species contained in the Drosophila genus) capitalizing on the species' ease of breeding, rapid generation time and ability to readily produce genetic mutants for study. Morgan's efforts with Drosophila led to the identification of chromosomes as the vector of inheritance for genes, and earned him the 1933 Nobel Prize in Medicine.

Drosophila are yellow-brown in color, have reddish eyes and transverse black rings across their abdomen (see Figure 1). Females are about 2.5 millimeters long, while males are slightly smaller and may be easily identified by their darker color.

Most importantly, the similarity in the genetic systems of fruit flies and other eukaryotic organisms including humans makes these model organisms extremely useful analogues for the study of common genetic processes including transcription and translation.

Roughly 75 percent of known human disease genes have recognizable correlates in the fruit fly genome and 50 percent of fly protein sequences have mammalian homologs. (The complete genome of D. melanogaster was completed in 2000.)

Chromosomes: genetic storehouses

Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes, or 46 chromosomes in all. Of these, 44 are known as autosomes and consist of matched pairs of chromosomes, known as homologous chromosomes. Each homologous chromosome contains the same set of genes in the same locations along the chromosome, though they may appear in differing alleles, which can affect the passing of genetic traits.

The current study however, focuses not on the autosomes but on the remaining pair of chromosomes, known as sex chromosomes. Females contain two X chromosomes, which are homologous, as in the case of the
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Contact: Joseph Caspermeyer
Joseph.Caspermeyer@asu.edu
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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