Navigation Links
Fruit fly aggression studies have relevance to humans, animals

Even the tiny, mild-mannered fruit fly can be a little mean sometimes ?especially when there's a choice bit of rotten fruit to fight over. And, like people, some flies have shorter tempers than others.

Researchers in the North Carolina Sate University genetics department have identified a suite of genes that affect aggression in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, pointing to new mechanisms that could contribute to abnormal aggression in humans and other animals.

The study, led by doctoral student Alexis Edwards in the laboratory of Dr. Trudy Mackay, William Neal Reynolds Professor of Genetics, appears online in PloS Genetics.

Feisty flies themselves may not be very scary, but their genes and biochemistry have more in common with those of humans than the casual observer might suspect, and geneticists can subject flies to experiments that simply can't be done on higher organisms.

To measure aggression, the researchers starved male flies for an hour and a half, then gave them a small food droplet and watched them duke it out, counting the number of times a focal fly would chase, kick, box, or flick his wings at other flies.

"Some animals will very vigorously defend their little food patch, whereas others are relatively polite," Mackay said. "To determine if this had a genetic basis, we conducted a selection experiment."

For the selection experiment, Edwards pulled three groups of flies ?high aggression, low aggression and control ?from the same baseline population, and kept them separate for 28 generations. From each generation, she selected the most aggressive flies from the high aggression group, the least aggressive flies from the low aggression group, and a random sample of the control flies, to be the parents of the next generation.

All the flies started at the same level of aggression, but after 28 generations of selection, the high aggression groups were kicking, chasing and boxing more often, while l ow aggression groups would hardly fight at all.

Selection experiments only show these kinds of results when there is some genetic control over the trait being selected. In this case, the genetic effect was not very strong ?the heritability, or genetic contribution to, aggressive behavior was about 10 percent. The other 90 percent had to be attributed to environmental variation.

"This is definitely not genetic predeterminism," Mackay said. "It's a susceptibility. Even in flies, in the constant environment in which we grow them, the environment is more important than the genes. But we are very interested in that small genetic contribution."

Next, the researchers wanted to know which specific genes affect a fly's chances of becoming a bully. To find out, they conducted a microarray experiment, a way of comparing which genes are turned on or off, or up or down, in aggressive versus non-aggressive flies.

They found 1,539 genes that were expressed differently in the two groups ?and flies only have about 14,000 genes in all. It will take more work to find out which of these genes directly affect aggressive behavior, which ones change as a result of the behavior, and how they do it.

But Edwards started by studying 19 families of flies, each of which had a single mutation in one of the genes identified in the microarray experiment. Fifteen of those 19 mutant families did, in fact, display abnormal aggression compared to non-mutants, confirming the role of those specific genes in aggressive behavior.

Those genes were already known to affect nervous system development, metabolism and immunity, among other things ?but none of them had been previously implicated in aggression. Many of them have human counterparts.

"Now we have 15 completely novel genes we can use in the future to investigate aggressive behavior," Mackay said. "Ultimately we hope to understand the basic biology of this very important trait, because the be tter we understand it in flies, the more we can develop logical human pharmaceutical interventions."


'"/>

Source:North Carolina State University


Related biology news :

1. X-Ray Beams And Fruit Fly Flight Simulator Aid Scientists View Of Muscle Power
2. Fruit fly studies open new window on cancer research
3. Fruit fly research set to revolutionize study of birth defects
4. How Fruitflies Know Its Time for Lunch
5. Fruit flys beating heart helps identify human heart disease genes
6. Fruit fly reveals a potential connection between dementia and cancer
7. Fruit fly dating game provides clues to our reproductive prowess
8. Psst! Coffee drinkers: Fruit flies have something to tell you about caffeine
9. Fruit fly study identifies gene mutation that regulates sensitivity to alcohol
10. Fruit flies and global warming -- Some like it hot
11. Fruit fly gene research may shed light on human disease processes
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:


(Date:3/30/2017)... , March 30, 2017  On April 6-7, 2017, ... the Genome hackathon at Microsoft,s headquarters in ... competition will focus on developing health and wellness apps ... Hack the Genome is the first hackathon ... The world,s largest companies in the genomics, tech and ...
(Date:3/29/2017)... , March 29, 2017  higi, the health IT ... North America , today announced a ... the acquisition of EveryMove. The new investment and acquisition ... of tools to transform population health activities through the ... data. higi collects and secures data today ...
(Date:3/24/2017)... , March 24, 2017 The Controller General of ... Mr. Abdulla Algeen have received the prestigious international IAIR Award ... Continue Reading ... ... and Deputy Controller Abdulla Algeen (small picture on the right) have received ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/7/2017)... ... October 06, 2017 , ... ... and applications consulting for microscopy and surface analysis, Nanoscience Instruments is now ... Analytical offers a broad range of contract analysis services for advanced applications. ...
(Date:10/7/2017)... , Oct. 6, 2017  The 2017 ... of three scientists, Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank ... developments in cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) have ... within the structural biology community. The winners worked ... can now routinely produce highly resolved, three-dimensional images ...
(Date:10/6/2017)... ... October 06, 2017 , ... ... lunch discussion and webinar on INSIGhT, the first-ever adaptive clinical trial for glioblastoma ... Cancer Institute. The event is free and open to the public, but registration ...
(Date:10/5/2017)... ... , ... Understanding the microbiome, the millions of bacteria that live in our ... My Future, the newest exhibit on display at the University City Science Center’s Esther ... the lens of the gut microbiome. , Gut Love opens October 12, 2017, ...
Breaking Biology Technology: