Gene of the Month - Shibire
Kat - And finally it's time for our gene of the month, and this time it's Shibire, named after the Japanese word for "limbs going to sleep". Shibire is the name given to an unusual mutation in the fruit fly Drosophila's dynamin gene, which normally makes a protein that helps to release tiny little packets of molecules from nerve cells enabling them to transmit information. In Shibire mutant flies, this protein works normally at regular lab temperature, but stops functioning if it gets over 29 degrees centigrade. As a result, the flies immediately become paralysed as their nerves stop working properly, and drop to the ground. But lower the temperature again and they spring right back as if nothing had happened.
Since it was discovered, researchers have used the temperature-sensitive Shibire mutation to study how fruit flies brains work - it cropped up several times during the Genetics society autumn meeting from scientists trying to figure out how memories are made and stored. You can see a fascinating video of this effect in action by following the link here: