A Drosophila Forward Genetics Pipeline to Understand Gene Function in an Organism Development: a Primer

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The science of genetics has contributed immensely to understanding the biological system and various biological materials like plants, yeast, c. elegans is used for an introduction to genetic courses in high schools. Drosophila has long been used for the demonstration of basic principles of genetics like the mechanism of inheritance and contributed hugely to building the foundation of modern genetics. Further, owing to the conservation of signaling pathways that shape and pattern an organism, the most basic understanding of signaling pathways in an organism development comes from Drosophila research. Teaching genetics through Drosophila offers various advantages; the short life cycle of 10 days, over 75% conservation of human disease genes, most of the homolog genes are expressed in Drosophila tissues and perform functions equivalent to those in human tissues and genetic mutant or RNAi (for reducing gene function in a desired tissue) for every human homolog gene.

Finding genes associated with a developmental process can be accomplished through various ways, forward genetic methods in which mutagenized organisms are examined for alteration in phenotype of interest is the most popular approach. Transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-β) and bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling pathways are conserved pathways that participate in a variety of key processes in an organism embryonic and imaginal development. The ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS) is required to achieve precise temporal and spatial regulation of diverse proteins and target damaged or unneeded proteins for the degradation. UPS-based protein rate regulation is achieved through a process of ubiquitination (a process of tagging proteins with ubiquitin). Ubiquitination is achieved through ubiquitin ligases. While the human genome encodes ~1000s of ubiquitin ligases, only a few have been characterized for their role in the ubiquitin-proteasome system and for their targets. Several ubiquitin ligases have been shown to regulate TGF-β signaling pathways. In this project, they will target HECT family E3 ubiquitin ligases.

Through this project, they will introduce practical genetics through Drosophila to high school students. Through these experimental hand-on experiences students will learn how principles of inheritance work, how reducing the function of a single gene during development may alter the development of one or many body organs and how these mechanisms could be used to understand human health and diseases.

Lead Principal Investigator (LPI)



Project ID

HSRP 03-1230-200029

Total Funding

QAR 30,000 for one year.