The wiring and firing in the fruit fly’s brain is remarkably similar to ours. Signals sent and received along nerve cells control the vast number of processes that make up a fully functioning body, be it human or insect. Signalling cells work by exchanging electrochemical messages, which are mopped up by guidance-receptors. These are crucial for transmitting the nerve messages, but an excess of guidance receptors can lead to developmental defects in the flies. Scientists exploring other proteins that could be playing a supporting role in this process looked at light-detecting nerve cells (pictured) in fly brain. They found that one single mutated protein (coloured blue) makes the whole process go awry. To explain why mutations in this protein cause the receptors to build-up, researchers think that it must normally play a role in destroying the receptors once they’ve done their job.
Written by Rebecca Hill
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