Gene of the Month - Alhambra

11 May 2016

Interview with

Kat Arney

And finally it's time for our gene of the month, and this time it's Alhambra. First found in fruit flies, Alhambra controls the activity of many different genes by influencing the organisation of the ball-shaped proteins that package up DNA, known as chromatin. So far scientists have found that it's involved in several processes in development, especially the different larval stages the fly embryo goes through and the moulting in between them. It also seems to play a role in some interesting behaviours, including controlling the activity of olfactory receptor genes - which make molecules in the fly's nose that allow it to smell and detect flies of the opposite sex - and the courtship song created when male flies rub their wings together, as well as other male sexytimes behaviour.

Researchers have recently discovered that Alhambra works together with another well-known fruit fly gene called Fruitless, which we've met before. Male fruit flies with faulty Fruitless have problems getting down to mating with female flies - in fact, they don't seem very interested in the ladies at all, with some mutants preferring to go for the boys. And female flies with faulty Fruitless tend to behave more like males. So maybe Alhambra's involved in that too.

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