Jesse Taylor Hughes, Jenna Rose Rock



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Metazoan animal morphological traits result from the combined inputs of hundreds or more genes that comprise gene regulatory networks (GRNs). Each GRN utilizes various genes from the genetic toolkit of transcription factor and signaling pathway genes to control complex patterns of gene expression. However, for few traits, if any, has the full repertoire of toolkit genes been characterized for its GRN. Thus, how traits are built by regulated gene expression remains poorly understood. Here we are investigating the genetic toolkit that makes a male-specific pigmentation pattern for the fruit fly species Drosophila (D.) melanogaster. Using RNA-interference, we reduce the expression of ~588 transcription factor genes to find those necessary for the development of this trait by surveying for deviant pigmentation phenotypes. We uncovered 35 novel transcription factors involved in the development of male-limited pigmentation in D. melanogaster. Future work will focus on elucidating how each of these genes is expressed within the fruit fly abdomen as well as where each gene fits within the Drosophila pigmentation network.

Publication Date


Project Designation

Independent Research

Primary Advisor

Tom M. Williams

Primary Advisor's Department



Stander Symposium project, College of Arts and Sciences

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Good Health and Well-Being

Using RNA-interference to Identify the Genetic Toolkit for a Fruit Fly Morphological Trait