Researchers Study Gene Regulation In Insects

Apr 27, 2006
Insects

Susan Brown, an associate professor of biology at Kansas State University, is interested in how evolution generates so much diversity in insects shapes and forms.

Take the fruit fly and the beetle, for example. Even though they look very different, they have the same segmented body plan consisting of head, thorax and abdomen, Brown said. They differ, though, in how they make segments in the embryo. Fruit flies make segments all at once; beetles make segments one at a time.

"Imagine slicing a loaf of bread," Brown said. "Segmentation in fruit flies is similar to a pre-sliced loaf of bread. In other insects and even humans, segments are added one at a time, like slicing a loaf of freshly baked bread."

It is this segmentation that is the basis of a paper by Brown and two K-State doctoral students. The appears in a recent edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

"We wanted to know how the same genes that slice a space like a loaf of bread can also add slices one at a time," Brown said.

According to Brown, the groundwork for this research was laid about 20 years ago when scientists first learned about the genes that regulate embryonic development in the fruit fly. She said one question that many scientists have been asking since is do other insects have those same genes? If they do, what role do these genes play to give insects such different ways of making segments?

Researchers first identified the genes associated with segmentation and discovered other insects, as well as humans, possessed the genes. But they wondered if the genes functioned the same in every organism.

"We figured that it would be good to start with another insect -- but an insect that looks very different," Brown said. "A fruit fly has a very specific shape and a beetle looks quite different. We thought it would be a good place to start, since they also develop very differently.

"Once the genes involved in segmentation were identified in other insects, we asked if they function the same as in fruit flies. If the function of these genes is eliminated, can the beetle still make segments?"

According to Brown, some of the genes that make segments in fruit flies are also needed to make segments in beetles. Other genes were found not to be needed.

"These results will help us decide which genes to investigate in other insects and arthropods to better understand the basic process of segmentation and how it is regulated at the genetic level," Brown said.

Source: Kansas State University

Explore further: Sea star disease strikes peninsula marine centers

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Physicists discuss quantum pigeonhole principle

9 hours ago

The pigeonhole principle: "If you put three pigeons in two pigeonholes at least two of the pigeons end up in the same hole." So where's the argument? Physicists say there is an important argument. While the ...

Giant crater in Russia's far north sparks mystery

11 hours ago

A vast crater discovered in a remote region of Siberia known to locals as "the end of the world" is causing a sensation in Russia, with a group of scientists being sent to investigate.

NASA Mars spacecraft prepare for close comet flyby

12 hours ago

NASA is taking steps to protect its Mars orbiters, while preserving opportunities to gather valuable scientific data, as Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring heads toward a close flyby of Mars on Oct. 19.

Recommended for you

Rare Sri Lankan leopards born in French zoo

2 hours ago

Two rare Sri Lankan leopard cubs have been born in a zoo in northern France, a boost for a sub-species that numbers only about 700 in the wild, the head of the facility said Tuesday.

Japan wraps up Pacific whale hunt

2 hours ago

Japan announced Tuesday that it had wrapped up a whale hunt in the Pacific, the second campaign since the UN's top court ordered Tokyo to halt a separate slaughter in the Antarctic.

Researchers uncover secrets of internal cell fine-tuning

2 hours ago

New research from scientists at the University of Kent has shown for the first time how the structures inside cells are regulated – a breakthrough that could have a major impact on cancer therapy development.

Getting a jump on plant-fungal interactions

3 hours ago

Fungal plant pathogens may need more flexible genomes in order to fully benefit from associating with their hosts. Transposable elements are commonly found with genes involved in symbioses.

User comments : 0