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Drosophila melanogaster (more commonly known as a fruit fly) is a very useful model organism and has been used for over 100 years in the study of inheritance with their Genome first sequenced in 2001. They only have four chromosomes with a total genome size of 165Mbp, which encodes for 14000 genes. Drosophila have giant, polytene, chromosomes which make chromosomal processes easier to study under the microscope. Specific changes in the organisms hereditary information were found to exactly correlate to the alteration or loss of specific giant chromosome bands. This provided proof that units of hereditary information are carried on chromosomes. The Drosophila has also been used to gain further understanding of embryonic development.

The use of Drosophila as a model organism has been used to study a number of human genetic and neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's disease[1]. Drosophila can be used as a model for these diseases as they contain ~70% of similar disease-causing genes as humans[2]. Many human genes that encode proteins that result in the progression of neurodegenerative diseases have homologues in the Drosophila. As a result, human genes can be expressed in the Drosophila to examine how the proteins affect neurons and their function. This has lead to a number of discoveries about these diseases which could have implications for treatments in the future. For example one particular study has shown that mitochondrial dysfunction can be a result of defective PINK1/Parkin signalling which appears to play a role as one of the pathogenic pathways of Parkinson’s disease[3].

Developent of Drosophila

During the development of Drosophila larvae, the four of the Drosophila have a distinctive banding pattern that makes it possible to observe large-scale chromosomal alterations. The development of Drosophila produces body segments in an anterior-posterior order that is similar to the basic body plan that is common to invertebrates and vertebrates. As a result of this, a lot of the knowledge around body development has been learnt from the fruit fly[4].


  1. Konsolaki. M (2013) "Fruitful Research: drug target discovery for neurodegenerative diseases in Drosophila." Expert Opinion: Drug Discovery 8: 1503-1513
  2. Bonner. J, Boulianne. G, (2011) "Drosophila as a model to study age-related diseases: Alzheimer's disease" Experimental Gerontology 46:335-339
  3. Van Laar, V. and Berman, S. (2009). Mitochondrial dynamics in Parkinson's disease. Experimental Neurology, 218(2), pp.247-256.
  4. Griffiths A, Wessler S, Carroll S, Doebley J. (2000) Introduction to genetic analysis, 10th edition, New York: W.H. Freeman.
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