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ÅAU Fly Unit

ÅAU Fly Unit

Logo för Åbo Akademis Fly Unit.

Drosophila as a model organism

Drosophila melanogaster is a species of fruit flies and a practical model organism used in biological and biomedical research. Drosophila is well-characterized and has been extensively used in research for more than 100 years. Hence, many tools are available for in vivo analysis of biological functions. The fruit fly is cheap and easy to grow in large quantities, it has a short generation time (about 9 days at 25°C) and gets a lot of offspring. The fruit fly is also an ethically uncomplicated choice as a biological model, because it is an invertebrate animal. The Drosophila genome has only four chromosome pairs and the genome is more compact and less complex compared to mammals.

Bild av flugan Drosophila melanogaster.

Hence, it is easy to genetically manipulate the fruit fly. Most organs also have an equivalent in mammals, although usually less developed. Although less complex, Drosophila is genetically and physiologically well conserved through evolution. About 50 % of the protein sequences in fruit flies have mammalian counterparts. In addition, the fruit fly carries a corresponding gene to approximately 75 % of all known human disease genes.

Many important biological discoveries have been made using the fruit fly and the model is actively used to understand development, cell behavior, cell-cell interactions, cell signalling, inflammation, organ function etc. Most biological processes required for an organism to develop, live, and prosper are conserved through evolution. The cells in the body need to grow, divide, differentiate, and die in the right place, at the right time.

For this to happen in multicellular organisms, the cells must communicate with each other, and the signals within cells must be transmitted and received correctly. Model organisms such as Drosophila are well suited to study the genetic program required for these processes.

Updated 8.4.2024