Fruit flies (Drosophila Melanogaster) are the favourite model organisms of most geneticists, since researchers consider Drosophila melanogaster as “the poster child for genetics” because of the ease at which they can be manipulated and the spped at which effects can be observed. These sticky insect are obviously very different to humans, but studying them is stil beneficial as they carry many genes which are orthologs to the genes in vertebrates.
When I started research in Fruit Fly Genetics research I found it fascinating to learn about the mutant fruit fly names, which range from funny to slightly disturbing.
Here is the list of some interesting mutant gene names and their functions.
1. Indy gene (I‘m Not Dead Yet)
The indy gene encodes for an intermediate transporter protein in the Krebs Cycle; flies with mutations in this gene have longer than average lifespan.1,2 There is some controversy surrounding this gene, with reports that mutation does not result in increased longevity.3
2. Boss gene (Bride Of Sevenless)
Boss gene encodes a cell-surface receptor tyrosine kinase and this gene helps in photoreceptor cell (R-cell) development in the Drosophila compound eye. The flies carrying mutation in Boss gene fails to differentiate into a specific photoreceptor cell type called R7 cell.4 Bride of Sevenless gets its name from being the ligand which is binds to Sevenless,5,6 and is thus married to it.
3. Ken and Barbie
This gene encodes a putative transcription factor that functions in treminalia development in the fruit fly. Mutation in this gene leads to malformation in fruit fly’s genitalia development, meaning they lack external genitalia, just like our faithful Ken and Barbie dolls.7
4. Cheap Date
Flies with mutant LUSH gene are unusually attracted ethanol, propanol and butanol but have normal chemosensory responses to other odorants.10
6. Halloween Genes
This group of genes includes disembodied, spook, spookier, shadow, shade, shroud and phantom and all encode P450 enzymes which are involved in the synthesis of steroid hormones.11 Flies with mutations in Halloween Genes have altered exoskeleton development, giving the embryos a spooky appearance.
7. 18 Wheeler
This gene encodes a Toll-like receptor (TLR) and mutations in this gene result in defect in salivary gland invagination.12 This gene gets its name due to the segmented expression pattern which is thought to resemble a tarpaulin covering an 18-wheeler truck.
This gene encodes a transcription factor which is involved in the formation of heart and dorsal vascular musculature. Flies with mutations in this gene have no heart, just like the tinman from OZ.13,14
This gene plays an important role in development and flies carrying mutations in this gene have an altered neuronal differentiation pattern. Because of this the eyes of clown flies are a mosaic of white and red.15,16
10. Van Gogh
Mutations in the Van Gogh gene affect the polarity of adult Drosophila cuticular structures and result in swirling of hair on the wing – hence the reference to Van Gogh.17
This gene encodes a nuclear protein that is required for normal development of the eye and leg. Mutations within this gene result in flies that have crippled legs, thus resembling a dachshund.18
This gene encodes an adapter protein which is required for the targeting and photoreceptor axon guidance. The R cell projections in Dreadlock gene mutants become disorganised and clump together, like dreadlocks.19
13. Swiss Cheese
The swiss cheese mutant causes glial hyperwrapping and brain degeneration in Drosophila. The brain of mutant flies has holes, just like swiss cheese!20
This gene is a Drosophia segment polarity gene. Mutant larvae have an excess of denticles along their antero-posterior axis reminiscent of hedgehog spines.21
Know any other cool gene names? Leave them in the comments below.
Rogina B et al. (2000) Extended life-span conferred by cotransporter gene mutations in Drosophila. Science 290:2137–40.
Neretti N et al. (2009) Long-lived Indy induces reduced mitochondrial reactive oxygen species production and oxidative damage. PNAS 106:2277–82.
Toivonen JM et al. (2007) No Influence of Indy on Lifespan in Drosophila after Correction for Genetic and Cytoplasmic Background Effects. PLoS Genetics3:e95.
Reinke R et al. (1988) Cell-cell interaction in the Drosophila retina: the bride of sevenless gene is required in photoreceptor cell R8 forR7 cell development. Cell 55:321–30.
Harris WA et al.(1976) Genetic dissection of the photoreceptor system in the compound eye of Drosophila melanogaster. J Physiol. 256:415–39.
Tomlinson A et al. (1986) Sevenless: a cell-specific homeotic mutation of the Drosophila eye. Science. 231:400–2.
Lukacsovich T et al. (2003) The ken and barbie gene encoding a putative transcription factor with a BTB domain and three zinc finger motifs functions in terminalia development of Drosophila. Arch Insect Biochem Physiol. 54:77–94.
Moore MS et al. (1998) Ethanol intoxication in Drosophila: Genetic and pharmacological evidence for regulation by the cAMP signaling pathway. Cell. 1998 93:997–1007.
Kim MS et al. (1998) LUSH odorant-binding protein mediates chemosensory responses to alcohols in Drosophila melanogaster. 150:711–21.
Gilbert LI (2004) Halloween genes encode P450 enzymes that mediate steroid hormone biosynthesis in Drosophila melanogaster. Mol Cell Endocrinol. 215:1-10.
Kolesnikov T et al. (2007) 18 wheeler regulates apical constriction of salivary gland cells via the Rho-GTPase-signaling pathway. Dev Biol. 307:53–61.
Bodmer R et al. (1990) A new homeobox-containing gene, msh-2, is transiently expressed early during mesoderm formation in Drosophila. Development. 110:661–9.
Bodmer R (1993) The gene tinman is required for specification of the heart and visceral muscles in Drosophila. Development. 118:719–29.
Wemmer T et al. (1995). A genetic analysis of theDrosophila closely linked interacting genes bulge, argos and soba. Genetics. 140:629–41.
Taguchi A et al. (2000) Mutations modulating the Argos-regulated signaling pathway in Drosophila eye development.Genetics. 154:1639–48.
Taylor J et al. (1998) Van Gogh: a new Drosophila tissue polarity gene. 150:199–210.
Mardon G et al. (1994) dachshund encodes a nuclear protein required for normal eye and leg development in Drosophila. Development. 120:3473–86.
Garrity PA (1996) Drosophila photoreceptor axon guidance and targeting requires the dreadlocks SH2/SH3 adapter protein. Cell. 85:639–50.
Kretzschmar D et al. (1997) The swiss cheese mutant causes glial hyperwrapping and brain degeneration in Drosophila. J Neurosci. 17:7425–32.
Nüsslein-Volhard C et al. (1980) Mutations affecting segment number and polarity in Drosophila. Nature. 287:795–801.