A suite of genes that affect aggression in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster has been identified. By investigating male flies from a large panel of lines which each carry a mutation in a single gene but are otherwise genetically identical, researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Biology identified particularly angry and particularly placid insects, uncovering 59 mutations in 57 genes that affect aggressive behavior.
Trudy Mackay, from North Carolina State University, led a team of researchers who carried out the experiments. She said, "Many of the genes we identified affect the development and function of the nervous system, and are thus plausibly relevant to the execution of complex behaviors. We studied nine mutations in extra detail and found that each had multiple effects on the size and shape of an insect's brain".
In order to measure aggression in the flies, Mackay and her colleagues starved them for a short period, and then allowed them to compete for and defend a limited food resource. They found that 32 of the mutations studied resulted in increased aggression while 27 caused flies to become more placid. None of the candidate genes identified in this study have been previously implicated in determining aggressive behavior.
The researchers say these results may also be relevant to behavior in other animal species, "Given the conservation of aggressive behavior among different animal species, these are novel candidate genes for future study in other animals, including humans".
Notes to Editors
1. Mutations in many genes affect aggressive behavior in Drosophila melanogaster
Alexis C Edwards, Liesbeth Zwarts, Akihiko Yamamoto, Patrick Callaerts and Trudy FC Mackay
BMC Biology (in press)
During embargo, article available here: http://www.biomedcentral.com/imedia/2019286134276639_article.pdf?random=730373
After the embargo, article available at journal website: http://www.biomedcentral.com/bmcbiol/
Please name the journal in any story you write. If you are writing for the web, please link to the article. All articles are available free of charge, according to BioMed Central's open access policy.
Article citation and URL available on request at email@example.com on the day of publication
2. BMC Biology - the flagship biology journal of the BMC series - publishes research and methodology articles of special importance and broad interest in any area of biology and biomedical sciences. BMC Biology (ISSN 1741-7007) is covered by PubMed, MEDLINE, BIOSIS, CAS, Scopus, EMBASE, Zoological Record, Thomson Reuters (ISI) and Google Scholar.
3. BioMed Central (http://www.biomedcentral.com/) is an STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publisher which has pioneered the open access publishing model. All peer-reviewed research articles published by BioMed Central are made immediately and freely accessible online, and are licensed to allow redistribution and reuse. BioMed Central is part of Springer Science+Business Media, a leading global publisher in the STM sector.
AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert! system.