Science Interviews


Wed, 9th Dec 2015

Gene of the Month - Curly

Kat Arney

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And finally itís time for our Gene of the Month, and this time itís Curly. First described almost a century ago and a firm favourite with fruit fly geneticists everywhere, the Curly mutation gives flies characteristic upturned, curved wings, rather than their normal straight ones. Because these are easy to spot, itís often used as a marker when doing breeding experiments, so researchers can easily find the flies theyíre interested in. But for nearly a hundred years, researchers havenít known exactly which gene is responsible. Recently a team of scientists in New York pinned it down to a gene called duox, which makes an enzyme that creates very reactive chemicals inside cells, helping to stabilise the structure of the developing wing.

Pleasingly, Curly works together with another gene known as Curly Su, which helps to tie together protein molecules in the developing wing to give them a strong, straight structure. If either gene is missing, the wings donít form properly, creating the curly shape. In humans duox is found in the thyroid gland and the gut, although exactly what itís doing there is unclear. And itís also found widely across other species, suggesting that whatever it does do is pretty important for it to be preserved so widely through evolution.


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