Gene of the month - Pavarotti
Named after the famously portly opera singer, the Pavarotti gene was first identified in Drosophila fruit flies in 1998. Fly embryos with a fault in their Pavarotti gene have abnormally large cells in the nervous system, because they fail to divide properly and just keep on growing. Eventually, the embryos die because they can’t form a proper nervous system.
Further research revealed that Pavarotti encodes a type of protein that acts as a tiny molecular motor, known as a kinesin. These motors crawl along the biological scaffolding inside cells and help to change a cell’s shape and structure - vital steps in the process of cell division as a cell contracts in the middle and splits into two.
In mammals, Pavarotti is known by the less dramatic name mitotic kinesin-like protein-1, or MKLP-1. But rather than being responsible for knocking out a passable version of Nessun Dorma, it’s also involved in building healthy nerve cells.