Tweedle Coat Fashions Stocky Flies

Oct 31, 2006
Tweedle Coat Fashions Stocky Flies
Tweedle proteins (Red) in the cuticle of fruit fly larvae. Photo Credit: X. Guan, UCSD

University of California, San Diego biologists have discovered that disruptions in genes they call Tweedles make fruit flies short and stout like Tweedledee and Tweedledum in Alice in Wonderland. They report in this week’s issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that a defective TweedleD protein in the outer coat of fly larvae makes them appear compressed.

“It’s not a trivial matter to put a shell on from the inside,” explained Steven Wasserman, a professor of biology who headed the research team. “An insect needs to build up the flexibility, strength and shape of each part before sealing the outside. If you’ve ever peeled a golf ball, you realize there isn’t just one thing holding it all together. Each part contributes.”

The researchers discovered 27 different Tweedle genes in fruit flies. The different proteins in the Tweedle family are found in different parts of the cuticle—the tough outer coat in fly embryos and larvae. The exact function of the Tweedles is not known, but the researchers think they strengthen the cuticle. Make one part too weak or too strong and the larvae end up resembling their namesake.

Tweedles may be good targets for novel insecticides, the researchers say, because the gene family appears to be unique to insects. “We’ve discovered Tweedle genes in all insect species we’ve examined, but not in any other species,” said Xiao Guan, a graduate student working with Wasserman and first author of the study.

Source: University of California, San Diego

Explore further: GMO mosquito plan sparks outcry in Florida

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

GMO mosquito plan sparks outcry in Florida

3 hours ago

A British company's plan to unleash hordes of genetically modified mosquitoes in Florida to reduce the threat of dengue fever and other diseases has sparked an outcry from fearful residents.

Population genomics unveil seahorse domain

22 hours ago

In a finding vital to effective species management, a team including City College of New York biologists has determined that the lined seahorse (Hippocampus erectus) is more a permanent resident of the we ...

User comments : 0

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.