Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Bisexual Fruit Flies Show New Role For Neurochemical

Date:
January 3, 2007
Source:
University of Illinois at Chicago
Summary:
Fruit flies' ability to discern one sex from another may depend on the number of receptors on the surface of nerve cells, and the number of receptors is controlled by levels of a ubiquitous brain chemical, University of Illinois at Chicago researchers have found.

Fruit flies' ability to discern one sex from another may depend on the number of receptors on the surface of nerve cells, and the number of receptors is controlled by levels of a ubiquitous brain chemical, University of Illinois at Chicago researchers have found.

Everything from the ability to concentrate, perceive and learn to debilitating illnesses such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, post-traumatic stress syndrome and schizophrenia is influenced by the number of receptors on nerve cells. The more receptors each cell has at its communication points, or synapses, the better that messages are carried through the brain.

A UIC research team led by David Featherstone, assistant professor of biological sciences, has discovered that receptor numbers are controlled by the brain's level of glutamate. But it is not the same glutamate that most neuroscientists think about -- the neurotransmitter that moves in message packets across the synapse. Instead, it is what Featherstone calls ambient extracellular glutamate, which just floats around the nervous system and has generally been ignored because no one knew where it came from or what it was doing.

For years, scientists failed to identify glutamate as a key neurotransmitter precisely because there was so much of it.

"It made no sense," said Featherstone. "People figured you couldn't use glutamate to send messages because there was too much glutamate background noise in the brain. It turns out that this background noise plays an important part in regulating information transfer."

Featherstone and his lab team found that glia cells are the source of the excess ambient glutamate. Along with neurons, these poorly understood "support" cells fill the brain.

The team discovered proteins in fruit fly glia cells that regulate the amount of ambient glutamate in the brain. Called xCT transporter proteins, they pump glutamate out of glia cells.

"When we mutate the protein, we get less ambient extracellular glutamate, more glutamate receptors, and so a stronger transfer of messages at synapses," Featherstone said.

The gene mutation also made the flies bisexual, leading him to name the gene "genderblind."

"The mutants are completely bisexual, but fertile. It's the first gene that really specifically affects homosexual behavior without affecting heterosexual behavior," he said.

"Trying to understand fly bisexuality sounds silly, but these behavioral changes are important evidence that ambient extracellular glutamate and xCT transport proteins play important, unsuspected roles in brain function," Featherstone said. "We think we'll be able to learn a lot about perception and development from figuring out exactly what's happening in these flies.

"It's amazing how many biomedical breakthroughs have come from crazy directions."

The findings were reported in the Dec. 27 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience. Featherstone's co-authors are Ph.D. student Hrvoje Augustin, post-doctoral researchers Yael Grosjean and Kaiyun Chen, and laboratory technician Qi Sheng.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Illinois at Chicago. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Illinois at Chicago. "Bisexual Fruit Flies Show New Role For Neurochemical." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 January 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/01/070103110238.htm>.
University of Illinois at Chicago. (2007, January 3). Bisexual Fruit Flies Show New Role For Neurochemical. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/01/070103110238.htm
University of Illinois at Chicago. "Bisexual Fruit Flies Show New Role For Neurochemical." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/01/070103110238.htm (accessed September 17, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) The South's tobacco country is surviving, and even thriving in some cases, as demand overseas keeps growers in the fields of one of America's oldest cash crops. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

AFP (Sep. 16, 2014) Scientists say a female colossal squid weighing an estimated 350 kilograms (770 lbs) and thought to be only the second intact specimen ever found was carrying eggs when discovered in the Antarctic. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ivorians Abandon Monkey Pets in Fear Over Ebola Virus

Ivorians Abandon Monkey Pets in Fear Over Ebola Virus

AFP (Sep. 16, 2014) Since the arrival of Ebola in Ivory Coast, Ivorians have been abandoning their pets, particularly monkeys, in the fear that they may transmit the virus. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
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:
from the past week

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