Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Gene Mutation Alters Feeding Behavior

Date:
January 11, 2000
Source:
University Of Texas Southwestern Medical Center At Dallas
Summary:
A tiny transparent worm has enabled the first complete description of the biochemical steps leading from a genetic mutation to a change in behavior, UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas investigators reported in the December 24th issue of Science. The understanding of the connection between genes and behavior at the molecular level is a major goal of neurobiology.

DALLAS - Jan. 11, 2000 - A tiny transparent worm has enabled the first complete description of the biochemical steps leading from a genetic mutation to a change in behavior, UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas investigators reported in the December 24th issue of Science.

Related Articles


The understanding of the connection between genes and behavior at the molecular level is a major goal of neurobiology.

"A question we want to answer in looking at the human genome is what controls behavior," said Dr. Leon Avery, associate professor of molecular biology at UT Southwestern and senior author of the paper. "I believe a lot of the genetics of human behavior will be understandable in molecular terms through a change in a single ion channel or single receptor molecule."

The researchers studied a worm called a c. elegans that had a mutation that affected its feeding behavior. They showed that the mutation in the gene exp-2 caused an abnormality in a potassium channel so that it remained open rather than opening and closing normally. This alteration prevented opening of the pharynx, the muscle used to eat.

The opening of the potassium channel, called EXP-2, causes muscle relaxation. Normally the muscle relaxes a fifth of a second after contraction of the muscle. In the mutant worms, it relaxed in a 20th of a second after the contraction. This meant the muscle never contracted or opened all the way. The worms could not eat much because they could not take in adequate food.

"A good way to imagine this is that the pharyngeal muscle is like a pump, pumping food into the worm," Avery said. "It works very much like a human heart. If a heart pumps too fast, it can't really pump any blood before it starts to relax again."

Because the scientists were able to describe the biophysical, electrophysiological and behavioral effects of this mutation, they now know every step in the causal chain linking a mutation to altered feeding behavior in c. elegans. The researchers believe that studying such changes in molecules eventually may answer behavioral questions right down to why some people are cheerful and others are grumpy.

The scientists also concluded from studying the worms' EXP-2 channel, which is related to the human potassium channel HERG, that these similarly functioning channels, although different in structure and sequence, apparently evolved to fill the same needs in different animals.

The researchers now will try to determine if modifying the behavior of the EXP-2 channel also changes the worms' feeding behavior.

###

The lead author of the study, Dr. M. Wayne Davis, recently earned his doctorate at UT Southwestern and is now at the University of Utah. Dr. Richard Fleischhauer, postdoctoral fellow, and Dr. Rolf Joho, associate professor of cell biology, both in the UT Southwestern Center for Basic Neuroscience, and Dr. Joseph Dent, assistant professor of biology at McGill University, Montreal, collaborated on the study.

National Institutes of Health grants supported this research.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Texas Southwestern Medical Center At Dallas. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Texas Southwestern Medical Center At Dallas. "Gene Mutation Alters Feeding Behavior." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 January 2000. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/01/000111075431.htm>.
University Of Texas Southwestern Medical Center At Dallas. (2000, January 11). Gene Mutation Alters Feeding Behavior. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 5, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/01/000111075431.htm
University Of Texas Southwestern Medical Center At Dallas. "Gene Mutation Alters Feeding Behavior." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/01/000111075431.htm (accessed March 5, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Praying Mantis Looks Long Before It Leaps

Praying Mantis Looks Long Before It Leaps

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 5, 2015) Slowed-down footage of the leaps of praying mantises show the insect&apos;s extraordinary precision, say researchers. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Octopus Grabs Camera and Turns It Around On Photographer

Octopus Grabs Camera and Turns It Around On Photographer

Buzz60 (Mar. 5, 2015) A photographer got the shot of a lifetime, or rather an octopus did, when it grabbed the camera and turned it around to take an amazing picture of the photographer. Jen Markham (@jenmarkham) has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ringling Bros. Eliminating Elephant Acts

Ringling Bros. Eliminating Elephant Acts

AP (Mar. 5, 2015) The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is ending its iconic elephant acts. The circus&apos; parent company, Feld Entertainment, told the AP exclusively that the acts will be phased out by 2018 over growing public concern about the animals. (March 5) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Tourists Visit Rare Grey Whales in Mexico

Raw: Tourists Visit Rare Grey Whales in Mexico

AP (Mar. 4, 2015) Once nearly extinct, grey whales now migrate in their thousands to Mexico&apos;s Vizcaino reserve in Baja California, in search of warmer waters to mate and give birth. Tourists flock to the reserve to see the whales, measuring up to 49 feet long. (March 4) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins