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Saturday, March 2
The Indiana Daily Student

academics & research

Fruit fly genetics influence scientific research

IU scientists have helped to identify thousands of new genes, transcripts and proteins of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster.

The group of scientists described the transcriptome — the complete collection of RNAs produced by a genome — of the fly at several stages of development, in different tissues, in flies stressed by environmental contaminants and in cells growing in
culture.

Findings uncovered throughout the study were published in the journal Nature on
March 16.

The paper explained that the Drosophila genome is much more complex than scientists thought prior to the study and may suggest the same will be true of the genomes of other organisms.

In the paper, scientists reported several new results, most notably of which that a total of 1,468 new genes were discovered.

“As biologists have developed increasing appreciation of how well genes and critical life processes are conserved over long evolutionary distances, flies have emerged as critical tools for understanding human biology and disease,” according to a March 17 IU press release.

There are 10 co-authors on the paper from IU’s College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Biology and the University’s Center for Genomics and Bioinformatics. A total of 41 authors contributed.

IU Professor Emeritus of Biology Peter Cherbas helped manage the expansive project and Distinguished Professor of Biology Thom Kaufman helped oversee design of the project and production of biological samples.

“We think these results could influence gene regulation research in all animals,” Kaufman said in the press release.

“This exhaustive study also identified a number of phenomena previously reported only in mammals, and that alone is really telling about the versatility of Drosophila melanogaster as a model organism. The new work provides a number of new potential uses for this powerful model system.”

Among the multiple discoveries was that long regulatory RNAs are especially prominent during gonadal development.

Cherbas said the study was intended to provide a basis for future similar
experiments.

“The goal is to provide researchers working on particular processes with much of the detailed background information they would otherwise need to collect for themselves,” he said in the release. “As usual in science, we’ve answered a number of questions and raised even more.”

Follow reporter Grace Palmieri on Twitter @Grace_Palmieri.

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