From: Allison Winter, ENN
Published March 13, 2013 01:02 PM

Every time the Dpp gene rings, a fruit fly gets its wings

It has been said that every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings. But what about a fruit fly? Ever wonder how this species gets its wings?

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According to new research, scientists have revealed that genetic activity has led to the development of the fruit fly's wings.

Researchers at The Ohio State University analyzed a cluster of cells present in the fruit fly's first day of larval life to connect a gene known to be active in the embryo with the gene that triggers the growth of wings.

Researchers determined that the known embryonic gene, called Dpp, sends the first signal to launch the activation of a gene called vn. That signal alone is dramatic, because it crosses cell layers.

The activation of vn is only temporary and lasts just long enough to turn on a target gene that combines with more signals to activate genes responsible for cell growth and completion of wing development.

Amanda Simcox, professor of molecular genetics at The Ohio State University and lead author of the study explains: "Our work shows how when you add a gene into the equation, you get a wing."

She continues, "The events could be responsible for this big event in evolutionary history, when the insect got its wing. With the wing, if its environment turned bad, the insect could fly off, giving it an advantage."

Because of the differences in how invertebrates develop, Simcox and her colleagues are not sure if Dpp's activation of vn explains how all insects get their wings as more research needs to be done.

The analysis showed that Dpp sent its signal from one cell layer to the other across the gap in the middle of the sac to activate the vn gene. The mechanism allowing the genes to talk to each other across that gap remains a mystery, Simcox noted.

Researchers also identified the location where the gene signaling would occur. When they mutated these binding sites, the signals were disabled thus interfering with cell and wing development. Because the development of the insect's wings is crucial for its ability to survive, understanding these genetic activities is important.

The research is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Read more at The Ohio State University

Fruit fly image via Shutterstock.

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