Gene of the month - Glass bottom boat

10 January 2013

Interview with 

Kat Arney


Coral Cay boat in the Philippines


It's time to take a voyage in our gene of the month - it's glass bottom boat, or gbb. The name comes from fruit flies - fruit fly larvae with a faulty glass bottom boat gene are transparent, compared to cloudier normal maggots. There's another tie-in too - when researchers looked at the activity pattern of glass bottom boat, or gbb, in developing flies, they found it was a mirror image of the activity pattern of another gene, decapentaplegic, or dpp. And the letters gbb are a mirror image of dpp - clever, huh? Also known as the less-catchy TGFbeta at 60A, glass bottom boat has a number of roles in fruit flies, including helping to organise the developing fly embryo, forming reproductive cells in the testis, patterning the fly's wings, and regulating the junctions (synapses) between nerve cells, which it does by interacting with a protein produced by the wonderfully-named wishful thinking gene.

There's no exact copy of glass bottom boat in mammals, including humans, but we do have a couple of genes that are related, which are both involved in growing bones. In fact, putting the fly glass bottom boat gene into rats can create new bones, which is pretty amazing when you think that rats and fruit flies are separated by millions of years of evolution.


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