Discipline: Biological Sciences
Marciay Pitchford - Harris-Stowe State University
Co-Author(s): Sandra Leal, Harris-Stowe State University, Saint Louis, MO
Drosophila melanogaster, known as the common fruit fly, is one of the most valuable model systems used in the fields of developmental biology and genetics. Using Drosophila as a model system for pursuing research is advantageous because: 1) the entire genome has been sequenced, 2) Drosophila expresses sophisticated genes with shared, evolutionarily conserved counterparts in humans and 3) this conservation allows researchers to study the functions of newly discovered genes as they may apply to human biology and health. In fact, past research has shown that genes regulating embryonic central nervous system (CNS) and heart development are highly conserved between fruit flies and humans. Neuronal and heart cell precursors acquire unique identities through differential gene expression. As a result, neurons and heart cells exhibit different morphological and functional properties as they become organized into much larger systems. For example, some neurons become motor neurons, while others differentiate into glial cells or interneurons. In the heart, some cells become pacemakers while others develop into muscle cells important for contraction. Using a forward genetic screen, we identified a region on the left arm of the third chromosome harboring a gene or genes that regulate RP2 motor neuron fates in the embryonic CNS. Since the loss of this gene(s) abolishes expression of the Even-Skipped (Eve) protein in RP2 motor neurons and since Eve is also important for regulating cardiac cell fates during embryogenesis, we are interested in identifying and then functionally characterizing this important gene(s) in the context of CNS and heart development. At present, we are carrying out a chromosomal deficiency mapping analysis to delimit the chromosomal interval harboring the gene(s) of interest. Future studies will next identify the gene(s) by screening gene candidates for their ability to regulate Eve expression in the embryonic CNS and heart. This project is supported by the NSF HBCU-UP Program and is approved by the faculty mentor, Sandra Leal.
Funder Acknowledgement(s): NSF; HBCU-UP
Faculty Advisor: Sandra Leal, Leals@hssu.edu
Role: My major roles in the research study include completing the chromosomal deficiency mapping analyses and then identifying the new gene or genes regulating both CNS and heart development.