Gene of the Month - Curly

09 December 2015

Interview with

Kat Arney

And finally it's time for our Gene of the Month, and this time it's 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, it's often used as a marker when doing breeding experiments, so researchers can easily find the flies they're interested in. But for nearly a hundred years, researchers haven't 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 don't form properly, creating the curly shape. In humans duox is found in the thyroid gland and the gut, although exactly what it's doing there is unclear. And it's 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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