Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Thomas Hunt Morgan


Strabismus is a common condition with misalignment between two eyes that may lead to decrease of visual acuity, lack of binocularity, and diplopia. It is caused by heterogeneous environmental and genetic risk factors. Our previous research has identified new chromosomal susceptibility loci in 4q28.3 and 7q31.2 regions for comitant strabismus in Japanese families. We conducted a verification study by linkage analysis to narrow the chromosomal loci down to a single gene.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Cell, Biology, Genetic linkage, William Bateson, Thomas Hunt Morgan, Binocular vision


Idiopathic scoliosis (IS) is a spine deformity that affects approximately 3% of the population. The underlying causes of IS are not well understood, although there is clear evidence that there is a genetic component to the disease. Genetic mapping studies suggest high genetic heterogeneity, but no IS disease-causing gene has yet been identified. Here, genetic linkage analyses combined with exome sequencing identified a rare missense variant (p.A446T) in the centriolar protein gene POC5 that cosegregated with the disease in a large family with multiple members affected with IS. Subsequently, the p.A446T variant was found in an additional set of families with IS and in an additional 3 cases of IS. Moreover, POC5 variant p.A455P was present and linked to IS in one family and another rare POC5 variant (p.A429V) was identified in an additional 5 cases of IS. In a zebrafish model, expression of any of the 3 human IS-associated POC5 variant mRNAs resulted in spine deformity, without affecting other skeletal structures. Together, these findings indicate that mutations in the POC5 gene contribute to the occurrence of IS.

Concepts: Family, DNA, Gene, Affect, Genetic linkage, William Bateson, Thomas Hunt Morgan, Mendelian inheritance


Synthetic gene drive systems possess enormous potential to replace, alter, or suppress wild populations of significant disease vectors and crop pests; however, their utility in diverse populations remains to be demonstrated. Here, we report the creation of a synthetic Medea gene drive system in a major worldwide crop pest, Drosophila suzukii We demonstrate that this drive system, based on an engineered maternal “toxin” coupled with a linked embryonic “antidote,” is capable of biasing Mendelian inheritance rates with up to 100% efficiency. However, we find that drive resistance, resulting from naturally occurring genetic variation and associated fitness costs, can be selected for and hinder the spread of such a drive. Despite this, our results suggest that this gene drive could maintain itself at high frequencies in a wild population and spread to fixation if either its fitness costs or toxin resistance were reduced, providing a clear path forward for developing future such systems in this pest.

Concepts: Gene, Genetics, Natural selection, Allele, Evolution, Biology, Thomas Hunt Morgan, Population genetics


Garland E. Allen’s 1978 biography of the Nobel Prize winning biologist Thomas Hunt Morgan provides an excellent study of the man and his science. Allen presents Morgan as an opportunistic scientist who follows where his observations take him, leading him to his foundational work in Drosophila genetics. The book was rightfully hailed as an important achievement and it introduced generations of readers to Morgan. Yet, in hindsight, Allen’s book largely misses an equally important part of Morgan’s work - his study of development and regeneration. It is worth returning to this part of Morgan, exploring what Morgan contributed and also why he has been seen by contemporaries and historians such as Allen as having set aside some of the most important developmental problems. A closer look shows how Morgan’s view of cells and development that was different from that of his most noted contemporaries led to interpretation of his important contributions in favor of genetics. This essay is part of a special issue, revisiting Garland Allen’s views on the history of life sciences in the twentieth century.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Biology, Model organism, Thomas Hunt Morgan, Drosophila melanogaster, Nobel Prize


The congenital cataract has been a clinically important cause of impaired vision development, making up about 10% of the cases of childhood blindness. Mutations of more than 40 genes have been identified causing congenital cataract with Mendelian inheritance, which indicated that it has an extremely high genetic heterogeneity. In this study, we recruited a large congenital cataract family and identified a missense mutation (c.143A>G: p.E48G) within gap junction protein alpha-3 (GJA3) gene in the proband using whole exome sequencing. Subsequent Sanger sequencing of this mutation in all family members revealed that this mutation cosegregated with the phenotype in the family with full penetrance. Our study identified a mutation in GJA3 that correlated with congenital cataract phenotype, which was not reported previously, and would be of benefit to the diagnosis of this genetic disorder. This finding expands the mutation spectrum of GJA3 and provides useful information for further study of the molecular pathogenesis of congenital cataract.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Mutation, Evolution, Molecular biology, Thomas Hunt Morgan, Point mutation


Fear/anxiety and anger/aggression greatly influence health, quality of life and social interactions. They are a huge burden to wellbeing, and personal and public economics. However, while much is known about the physiology and neuroanatomy of such emotions, little is known about their genetics - most importantly, why some individuals are more susceptible to pathology under stress.

Concepts: Gene, Genetics, Biology, Quality, Thomas Hunt Morgan, Gross domestic product, Subjects taught in medical school, Socioeconomics


Absolute pitch and synesthesia are two uncommon cognitive traits that reflect increased neuronal connectivity and have been anecdotally reported to occur together in a same individual. Here we systematically evaluate the occurrence of syesthesia in a population of 768 subjects with documented absolute pitch. Out of these 768 subjects, 151(20.1%) reported synesthesia, most commonly with color. These self-reports of synesthesia were validated in a subset of 21 study subjects using an established methodology. We further carried out combined linkage analysis of 53 multiplex families with absolute pitch and 36 multiplex families with synesthesia. We observed a peak NPL LOD=4.68 on chromosome 6q, as well as evidence of linkage on chromosome 2 using a dominant model. These data establish the close phenotypic and genetic relationship between absolute pitch and synesthesia. The chromosome 6 linkage region contains 73 genes; several leading candidate genes involved in neurodevelopment were investigated by exon resequencing. However, further studies will be required to definitively establish the identity of the causative gene(s) in the region.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Biology, Chromosome, Genetic linkage, William Bateson, Thomas Hunt Morgan, Chromosomal crossover


Drosophila melanogaster is a powerful model organism for biological research. The essential and common instrument of fly research is genetics, the art of applying Mendelian rules in the specific context of Drosophila with its unique classical genetic tools and the breadth of modern genetic tools and strategies brought in by molecular biology, transgenic technologies and the use of recombinases. Training newcomers to fly genetics is a complex and time-consuming task but too important to be left to chance. Surprisingly, suitable training resources for beginners currently are not available. Here we provide a training package for basic Drosophila genetics, designed to ensure that basic knowledge on all key areas is covered while reducing the time invested by trainers. First, a manual introduces to fly history, rationale for mating schemes, fly handling, Mendelian rules in fly, markers and balancers, mating scheme design, and transgenic technologies. Its self-study is followed by a practical training session on gender and marker selection, introducing real flies under the dissecting microscope. Next, through self-study of a PowerPoint presentation, trainees are guided step-by-step through a mating scheme. Finally, to consolidate knowledge, trainees are asked to design similar mating schemes reflecting routine tasks in a fly laboratory. This exercise requires individual feedback but also provides unique opportunities for trainers to spot weaknesses and strengths of each trainee and take remedial action. This training package is being successfully applied at the Manchester fly facility and may serve as a model for further training resources covering other aspects of fly research.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Biology, Model organism, Thomas Hunt Morgan, Drosophila melanogaster, Drosophila


Science standards have a long history in the United States and currently form the backbone of efforts to improve primary and secondary education in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Although there has been much political controversy over the influence of standards on teacher autonomy and student performance, little light has been shed on how well standards cover science content. We assessed the coverage of genetics content in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) using a consensus list of American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) core concepts. We also compared the NGSS against state science standards. Our goals were to assess the potential of the new standards to support genetic literacy and to determine if they improve the coverage of genetics concepts relative to state standards. We found that expert reviewers cannot identify ASHG core concepts within the new standards with high reliability, suggesting that the scope of content addressed by the standards may be inconsistently interpreted. Given results that indicate that the disciplinary core ideas (DCIs) included in the NGSS documents produced by Achieve, Inc. clarify the content covered by the standards statements themselves, we recommend that the NGSS standards statements always be viewed alongside their supporting disciplinary core ideas. In addition, gaps exist in the coverage of essential genetics concepts, most worryingly concepts dealing with patterns of inheritance, both Mendelian and complex. Finally, state standards vary widely in their coverage of genetics concepts when compared with the NGSS. On average, however, the NGSS support genetic literacy better than extant state standards.

Concepts: Genetics, Evolution, Human genome, Human Genome Project, United States, Thomas Hunt Morgan, Gregor Mendel, Star Trek: The Next Generation


Scientific outreach delivers science to the people. But it can also deliver people to the science. In this work, we report our experience from a large-scale public engagement project promoting genomic literacy among Danish high school students with the additional benefit of collecting data for studying the genetic makeup of the Danish population. Not only did we confirm that students have a great interest in their genetic past, but we were also gratified to see that, with the right motivation, adolescents can provide high-quality data for genetic studies.

Concepts: Gene, Genetics, Human Genome Project, Genomics, Thomas Hunt Morgan, High school, Social sciences, Ideology