Gene of the month - Tubby
Kat - And now, it's time for Gene of the Month and this one is a bit on the large side - it's called Tubby. The gene was first spotted in 1990 when researchers at the Jackson Laboratory in the US, a genetics research centre, noticed a strain of unusually fat mice in their breeding stocks - hence the name Tubby. Not only do animals with a mutation in the Tubby gene put on more weight, especially later in life, they also have progressive problems with their sight and hearing. But it's not just a quirk of mouse genetics - these symptoms closely mirror human genetic conditions such as Usher's, Bardet-Biedl and Alstrom's syndromes.
The Tubby gene itself was tracked down in 1996, and similar genes are found across a wide range of organisms, from animals to plants. But despite this ubiquity, relatively little is known about how the protein encoded by the Tubby gene, or related molecules, known as Tubby-like proteins, actually work. They seem to play a role in switching genes on, but also appear to play a part in sending signals inside cells. So, for now at least, Tubby is providing scientists with a plus-sized problem to get stuck into.