Researchers study fruit flies because their development is similar, but simpler than humans: for each fruit fly gene, humans may have several with overlapping roles. The young fruit fly must make the right proteins in the right cells at the right times to grow body parts, just as in humans. Signals from neighbouring cells go to the nucleus (the cell’s centre, where DNA sequences store protein recipes as genes) and affect which proteins are being made. Here, a piece of fruit fly DNA (a chromosome) from inside a single wing cell has been dyed blue. Two proteins involved in wing development have been stained: one called Corto that helps the DNA unfold at certain genes (shown in pink) and one called dMP1 which brings together protein production machinery (coloured green). Where the two stains mix to become orange, the two proteins are working together to alter protein production, creating the correct part of the fly wing.
Written by Claire Worrall
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences (the new name for the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre) the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.