Saturday, June 11, 2005

Single Gene Changes Sex Orientation of Fruit Flies

Barry Dickson and colleagues at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology in Vienna, Austria, published a pair of papers in the 3 June issue of Cellto report on a first elegant demonstration that a single gene can serve as a switch for complex behavior [1, 2].

Miller [2] writes, "The male fruit fly is a winged Casanova. He pursues lady flies with a repertoire of song, dance, and well-placed licks that many find impossible to resist." Female flies altered by the Austrian scientists to use a gene called fruitless (fru) to make proteins normally made by males pursued a waiting virgin female, showing all the components of that repertoire.

This could be an important step toward understanding instinctive human behavior.

  1. E. Rosenthal, For Fruit Flies, Gene Shift Tilts Sex Orientation, New York Times (June 3, 2005).
  2. G. Miller, Spliced Gene Determines Objects of Flies' Desire, Science Vol. 308, p. 1392 (2005).