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Concept: Drosophila


DEET (N,N-Diethyl-m-toluamide) is one of the most widely used mosquito repellents. Although DEET has been shown to be extremely effective, recent studies have revealed that certain individual insects are unaffected by its presence. A genetic basis for this has been shown in Aedes aegypti mosquitoes and the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, but, for the triatomine bug, Rhodnius prolixus, a decrease in response to DEET occurred shortly after previous exposure, indicating that non-genetic factors may also be involved in DEET “insensitivity”. In this study, we examined host-seeking behaviour and electrophysiological responses of A. aegypti after pre-exposure to DEET. We found that three hours after pre-exposure the mosquitoes showed behavioural insensitivity, and electroantennography revealed this correlated with the olfactory receptor neurons responding less to DEET. The change in behaviour as a result of pre-exposure to DEET has implications for the use of repellents and the ability of mosquitoes to overcome them.

Concepts: Insect, Mosquito, Yellow fever, Aedes aegypti, Aedes, Drosophila melanogaster, Drosophila, Insect repellent


Cervical cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer death in women worldwide. The causative agents of cervical cancers, high-risk human papillomaviruses (HPVs), cause cancer through the action of two oncoproteins, E6 and E7. The E6 oncoprotein cooperates with an E3 ubiquitin ligase (UBE3A) to target the p53 tumour suppressor and important polarity and junctional PDZ proteins for proteasomal degradation, activities that are believed to contribute towards malignancy. However, the causative link between degradation of PDZ proteins and E6-mediated malignancy is largely unknown. We have developed an in vivo model of HPV E6-mediated cellular transformation using the genetic model organism, Drosophila melanogaster. Co-expression of E6 and human UBE3A in wing and eye epithelia results in severe morphological abnormalities. Furthermore, E6, via its PDZ-binding motif and in cooperation with UBE3A, targets a suite of PDZ proteins that are conserved in human and Drosophila, including Magi, Dlg and Scribble. Similar to human epithelia, Drosophila Magi is a major degradation target. Magi overexpression rescues the cellular abnormalities caused by E6+UBE3A coexpression and this activity of Magi is PDZ domain-dependent. Drosophila p53 was not targeted by E6+UBE3A, and E6+UBE3A activity alone is not sufficient to induce tumorigenesis, which only occurs when E6+UBE3A are expressed in conjunction with activated/oncogenic forms of Ras or Notch. Finally, through a genetic screen we have identified the insulin receptor signaling pathway as being required for E6+UBE3A induced hyperplasia. Our results suggest a highly conserved mechanism of HPV E6 mediated cellular transformation, and establish a powerful genetic model to identify and understand the cellular mechanisms that underlie HPV E6-induced malignancy.

Concepts: Cancer, Oncology, Human papillomavirus, Cervical cancer, Model organism, Proteasome, Drosophila melanogaster, Drosophila


While foraging theory predicts that predatory responses should be determined by the energy content and size of prey, it is becoming increasingly clear that carnivores regulate their intake of specific nutrients. We tested the hypothesis that prey nutrient composition and predator nutritional history affects foraging intensity, consumption, and prey selection by the wolf spider, Pardosa milvina. By altering the rearing environment for fruit flies, Drosophila melanogaster, we produced high quality flies containing more nitrogen and protein and less lipid than low quality fruit flies. In one experiment, we quantified the proportion of flies taken and consumption across a range of densities of either high or low quality flies and, in a second experiment, we determined the prey capture and consumption of spiders that had been maintained on contrasting diets prior to testing. In both cases, the proportion of prey captured declined with increasing prey density, which characterizes the Type II functional response that is typical of wolf spiders. Spiders with similar nutritional histories killed similar numbers of each prey type but consumed more of the low quality prey. Spiders provided high quality prey in the weeks prior to testing killed more prey than those on the low quality diet but there was no effect of prior diet on consumption. In the third experiment, spiders were maintained on contrasting diets for three weeks and then allowed to select from a mixture of high and low quality prey. Interestingly, feeding history affected prey preferences: spiders that had been on a low quality diet showed no preference but those on the high quality diet selected high quality flies from the mixture. Our results suggest that, even when prey size and species identity are controlled, the nutritional experience of the predator as well as the specific content of the prey shapes predator-prey interactions.

Concepts: Insect, Predation, Lotka–Volterra equation, Drosophila, Optimal foraging theory, Spider, Carnivore, Wolf spider


Members of the Frizzled family of sevenpass transmembrane receptors signal via the canonical Wnt pathway and also via noncanonical pathways of which the best characterized is the planar polarity pathway. Activation of both canonical and planar polarity signaling requires interaction between Frizzled receptors and cytoplasmic proteins of the Dishevelled family; however, there has been some dispute regarding whether the Frizzled-Dishevelled interactions are the same in both cases. Studies looking at mutated forms of Dishevelled suggested that stable recruitment of Dishevelled to membranes by Frizzled was required only for planar polarity activity, implying that qualitatively different Frizzled-Dishevelled interactions underlie canonical signaling. Conversely, studies looking at the sequence requirements of Frizzled receptors in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster for canonical and planar polarity signaling have concluded that there is most likely a common mechanism of action. To understand better Frizzled receptor function, we have carried out a large-scale mutagenesis in Drosophila to isolate novel mutations in frizzled that affect planar polarity activity and have identified a group of missense mutations in cytosolic-facing regions of the Frizzled receptor that block Dishevelled recruitment. Interestingly, although some of these affect both planar polarity and canonical activity, as previously reported for similar lesions, we find a subset that affect only planar polarity activity. These results support the view that qualitatively different Frizzled-Dishevelled interactions underlie planar polarity and canonical Wnt signaling.

Concepts: Protein, Mutation, Point mutation, Missense mutation, Drosophila melanogaster, Drosophila, Wnt signaling pathway, Frizzled


Observation of how cells divide, grow, migrate and form different parts of a developing organism is crucial for understanding developmental programs. Here, we describe a multicolor imaging tool named Raeppli (after the colorful confetti used at the carnival in Basel). Raeppli allows whole-tissue labeling such that the descendants of the majority of cells in a single organ are labeled and can be followed simultaneously relative to one another. We tested the use of Raeppli in the Drosophila melanogaster wing imaginal disc. Induction of Raeppli during larval stages irreversibly labels >90% of the cells with one of four spectrally separable, bright fluorescent proteins with low bias of selection. To understand the global growth characteristics of imaginal discs better, we induced Raeppli at various stages of development, imaged multiple fixed discs at the end of their larval development and estimated the size of their pouch primordium at those developmental stages. We also imaged the same wing disc through the larval cuticle at different stages of its development; the clones marked by Raeppli provide landmarks that can be correlated between multiple time points. Finally, we used Raeppli for continuous live imaging of prepupal eversion of the wing disc.

Concepts: Insect, Developmental biology, Larva, Model organism, Drosophila melanogaster, Drosophila, Imaginal disc, Imago


In all animals, sleep pressure is under continuous tight regulation. It is universally accepted that this regulation arises from a two-process model, integrating both a circadian and a homeostatic controller. Here we explore the role of environmental social signals as a third, parallel controller of sleep homeostasis and sleep pressure. We show that, in Drosophila melanogaster males, sleep pressure after sleep deprivation can be counteracted by raising their sexual arousal, either by engaging the flies with prolonged courtship activity or merely by exposing them to female pheromones.

Concepts: Insect, Drosophila melanogaster, Drosophila


To escape danger or catch prey, running vertebrates rely on dynamic gaits with minimal ground contact. By contrast, most insects use a tripod gait that maintains at least three legs on the ground at any given time. One prevailing hypothesis for this difference in fast locomotor strategies is that tripod locomotion allows insects to rapidly navigate three-dimensional terrain. To test this, we computationally discovered fast locomotor gaits for a model based on Drosophila melanogaster. Indeed, the tripod gait emerges to the exclusion of many other possible gaits when optimizing fast upward climbing with leg adhesion. By contrast, novel two-legged bipod gaits are fastest on flat terrain without adhesion in the model and in a hexapod robot. Intriguingly, when adhesive leg structures in real Drosophila are covered, animals exhibit atypical bipod-like leg coordination. We propose that the requirement to climb vertical terrain may drive the prevalence of the tripod gait over faster alternative gaits with minimal ground contact.

Concepts: Insect, Animal, Model organism, Drosophila melanogaster, Drosophila, Walking, Locomotion, Climbing


The “organic food” market is the fastest growing food sector, yet it is unclear whether organically raised food is nutritionally superior to conventionally grown food and whether consuming organic food bestows health benefits. In order to evaluate potential health benefits of organic foods, we used the well-characterized fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as a model system. Fruit flies were raised on a diets consisting of extracts of either conventionally or organically raised produce (bananas, potatoes, raisins, soy beans). Flies were then subjected to a variety of tests designed to assess overall fly health. Flies raised on diets made from organically grown produce had greater fertility and longevity. On certain food sources, greater activity and greater stress resistance was additionally observed, suggesting that organic food bestows positive effects on fly health. Our data show that Drosophila can be used as a convenient model system to experimentally test potential health effects of dietary components. Using this system, we provide evidence that organically raised food may provide animals with tangible benefits to overall health.

Concepts: Nutrition, Model organism, Drosophila melanogaster, Drosophila, Organic farming, Flies, Organic food, Sustainable agriculture


The recent development of a CRISPR-Cas9-based homing system for the suppression of Anopheles gambiae is encouraging; however, with current designs, the slow emergence of homing-resistant alleles is expected to result in suppressed populations rapidly rebounding, as homing-resistant alleles have a significant fitness advantage over functional, population-suppressing homing alleles. To explore this concern, we develop a mathematical model to estimate tolerable rates of homing-resistant allele generation to suppress a wild population of a given size. Our results suggest that, to achieve meaningful population suppression, tolerable rates of resistance allele generation are orders of magnitude smaller than those observed for current designs for CRISPR-Cas9-based homing systems. To remedy this, we theoretically explore a homing system architecture in which guide RNAs (gRNAs) are multiplexed, increasing the effective homing rate and decreasing the effective resistant allele generation rate. Modeling results suggest that the size of the population that can be suppressed increases exponentially with the number of multiplexed gRNAs and that, with four multiplexed gRNAs, a mosquito species could potentially be suppressed on a continental scale. We also demonstrate successful proof-of-principle use of multiplexed ribozyme flanked gRNAs to induce mutations in vivo in Drosophila melanogaster - a strategy that could readily be adapted to engineer stable, homing-based drives in relevant organisms.

Concepts: Gene, Genetics, Evolution, Biology, Drosophila melanogaster, Drosophila, Anopheles gambiae, Suppression


Sensory perception modulates aging and physiology across taxa. We found that perception of female sexual pheromones through a specific gustatory receptor expressed in a subset of foreleg neurons in male fruit flies, Drosophila melanogaster, rapidly and reversibly decreases fat stores, reduces resistance to starvation, and limits life span together with neurons that express the reward-mediating neuropeptide F. High-throughput RNA-seq experiments revealed a set of molecular processes that were impacted by the activity of the longevity circuit, thereby identifying new candidate cell non-autonomous aging mechanisms. Mating reversed the effects of pheromone perception, suggesting a model where life span is modulated through integration of sensory and reward circuits and where healthy aging may be compromised when the expectations defined by sensory perception are discordant with ensuing experience.

Concepts: Biology, Insect, Model organism, Sensory system, Sense, Drosophila melanogaster, Drosophila, Pheromone