These experiments uncovered previously unsuspected interactions of various proteins as the muscles stretch and contract. The results suggest a model for how these powerful biological motors turn “on?and “off?during the wingbeat.
“Small flying insects face an enormous task ?generating enough power to overcome gravity, air resistance and drag ?and they do this by beating their wings ferociously,?said Maughan. “We found out that timing is key, where certain molecules have to be positioned exactly with respect to others during each phase of the wing beat in order to produce the high power output.?/p>
The researchers note that the many similarities between insect muscle and other oscillatory muscles, including human cardiac muscle, mean that the research may be adaptable for other uses.
“Both insect flight and human heart muscles store energy during each beat that is later used to help flap the wings or expand the heart after contraction. We found that flying insects store much of the elastic energy in the protein filaments themselves, which minimizes the power costs,?Maughan said.
A previous publication by Maughan and Tom Irving of IIT demonstrated the feasibility of taking movies of molecular changes in live flies. UVM’s Instrument and Model Facility (IMF), directed by Tobey Clark, built a rotating shutter used in the earlier experiment. IMF scientists Carl Silver and Gill Gianetti fabricated the high-speed device.
“How the fly’s muscles turn off and on at 200 times a second has been a mystery that we now can solve in detail using these new technologies?Maughan said.
Maughan and his colleagues?research experiences with genetically malleable fruit flies has increased the potential for addressing much more specific questions about the roles of various protein components in muscle function using mutant or genetically-engineered flies.
Source:University Of Vermont