Contact: Cathy Yarbrough
Genetics Society of America
As Rachel Carson predicted 50 years ago in her groundbreaking book Silent Spring, crop pests are capable of outwitting the chemical compounds known as xenobiotics that are devised to kill them. This development of resistance to insecticides is a serious problem because it threatens crop production and thereby can influence the availability and costs of many foods as well as the economy.
To understand the genetic mechanisms underlying insecticide resistance, University of Kansas scientists turned to the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster and caffeine, a stimulant drug that is often employed as a surrogate for xenobiotics in lab studies on resistance.
The researchers tested the response to caffeine for over 1,700 lines of fruit flies from the Drosophila Synthetic Population Resource (DSPR). They successfully mapped 10 quantitative trait loci, stretches of DNA containing genes linked to either resistance or susceptibility to caffeine, and subsequently identified Cyp12d1-d and Cyp12d1-p, two members of the cytochrome P450 gene family that codes for enzymes that are involved in detoxifying toxic compounds: The scientists found that the two genes contribute over 10 percent of the fruit flies' variation in resistance to caffeine.
This approach can be employed to uncover genes involved in resistance to essentially any drug of interest. In fact, in previous studies (G3: Genes|Genomes|Genetics, August 2013), the authors adopted this approach to identify 45 percent of the genetic variance in the toxicity of the chemotherapeutic medication methotrexate.
"Quantitative genetics of caffeine resistance in Drosophila melanogaster." Chad A. Highfill, Michael A. Najarro, Stuart J. Macdonald. Department of Molecular Biosciences, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS.
ABOUT GSA: Founded in 1931, the Genetics Society of America (GSA) is the professional scientific society for genetics researchers and educators. The Society's more than 5,000 members worldwide work to deepen our understanding of the living world by advancing the field of genetics, from the molecular to the population level. GSA promotes research and fosters communication through a number of GSA-‐sponsored conferences including regular meetings that focus on particular model organisms. GSA publishes two peer-‐reviewed, peer-edited scholarly journals: GENETICS, which has published high quality original research across the breadth of the field since 1916, and G3: Genes|Genomes|Genetics, an open-access journal launched in 2011 to disseminate high quality foundational research in genetics and genomics. The society also has a deep commitment to education and fostering the next generation of scholars in the field. For more information about GSA, please visit http://www.genetics-gsa.org. Also follow GSA on Facebook at facebook.com/GeneticsGSA and on Twitter @GeneticsGSA.
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