Genetic research in flies reveals regulatory pathway similarities

April 27, 2008

The transcriptional regulatory pathways of invertebrate animals and vertebrate animals are comparable when it comes to lens formation, according to Tiffany Cook, PhD, who spoke about research in flies during a symposium about innovative strategies for eye development and regeneration in non-mammalian models.

The transcriptional regulatory pathways of invertebrate animals and vertebrate animals are comparable when itcomes to lens formation, according to Tiffany Cook, PhD, who spoke about research in flies during a symposiumabout innovative strategies for eye development and regeneration in non-mammalian models.

The research she reported is among the first of its kind, said Dr. Cook, assistant professor, Department ofOphthalmology, University of Cincinnati. It is expected to lay the groundwork for additional genetic studiesthat will attempt to identify regulatory pathways needed for the development of normal lenses as part of theundertaking to understand which parts of the pathways are negatively affected in those with congenital andage-related cataract.

Through their research with the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, Dr. Cook and colleagues believe thatthe Prospero protein and the PAX6 gene are necessary for some but not all cone cell development, that each has asecondary effect on primary pigment cell development, and that both seem to interact genetically to controlcornea/lens development. The question of whether lens development is evolutionarily conserved is an open one,she said.

"What we're learning in the fly eye . . . may have a significant impact on our understanding of how thesestructures are formed in humans, too," Dr. Cook concluded.