Expression of a "Ouija Board" protein that can summon "monster" genes

February 8, 2016
“Ouija Board” plays an important role in the biosynthesis of the steroid hormones necessary for insect development.

Steroid hormones are biologically active substances that play important roles in the development and sexual maturation of individuals, as well as in maintaining homeostasis, regardless of species. Steroid hormones are biosynthesized from cholesterol in specific endocrine organs via multi-step enzymatic reactions. Consequently, it is important that the gene groups that provide instructions for those biosynthetic enzymes are expressed in limited forms in the organs where steroid hormone biosynthesis takes place. While progress has been made on research in vertebrates, the mechanism controlling limited gene expression in the steroidogenic organs of invertebrates is largely unknown.

A research group led by University of Tsukuba Faculty of Life and Environmental Sciences Associate Professor Ryusuke Niwa, in a joint study with the National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, has studied Drosophila melanogaster flies to discover a new protein dubbed "Ouija Board," which plays an important role in the biosynthesis of the necessary for insect development.

This study has shown that "Ouija Board" regulates the expression of the enzyme required for biosynthesis of insect steroid hormones (molting hormones). Of particular interest is the fact that "Ouija Board" regulates only a single gene out of the many various biosynthetic enzyme genes. In addition, "Ouija Board" exists only in the fly family of insects. The above results strongly suggest that Drosophila melanogaster has a special regulatory mechanism for only a single enzyme gene. While this study has provided new knowledge about the mechanism for animal steroid hormone biosynthesis and its evolution, it could also lead to the development of ideas for the development of more "environmentally friendly" agrochemicals that act only on insects.

Explore further: Control gene for developmental timing discovered

More information: Tatsuya Komura-Kawa et al. The Drosophila Zinc Finger Transcription Factor Ouija Board Controls Ecdysteroid Biosynthesis through Specific Regulation of spookier, PLOS Genetics (2015). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1005712

Related Stories

Control gene for developmental timing discovered

September 28, 2011

University of Alberta researchers have identified a key regulator that controls the speed of development in the fruit fly. When the researchers blocked the function of this regulator, animals sped up their rate of development ...

Recommended for you

Scientists discover maleness gene in malaria mosquitoes

June 30, 2016

Scientists, led by Dr Jaroslaw Krzywinski, Head of the Vector Molecular Biology group at The Pirbright Institute have isolated a gene, which determines maleness in the species of mosquito that is responsible for transmitting ...

Similarities found in bee and mammal social organization

June 30, 2016

New research shows similarities in the social organisation of bees and mammals, and provides insight into the genetics of social behavior for other animals. These findings, published in PLOS Computational Biology, use sociogenomics ...

Researchers identify calorie-burning pathway in fat cells

June 30, 2016

Investigators at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in collaboration with scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have identified a natural molecular pathway that enables cells to burn off calories as heat rather ...

Honeybees threatened by virulent virus

June 30, 2016

Researchers have found that honeybees in Europe are at significantly higher risk from an emerging viral variant, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.