Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Twisted Bristles

Gene control of fruit fly bristle formation discovery – insight into mammalian foetal development

02 March 2020

Twisted Bristles

How do fruit fly cells do the twist? These bristles running along the edge of the fly’s wing always twist the same way thanks to a gene called Prickle, with the bristles on the right-hand wing always twisting to the left and those on the left-hand wing angling right. Without Prickle, another gene called Spiny Legs steps in and makes the bristles grow the wrong way round. While a developing human might seem very different from a fruit fly, similar rotational processes are also at work as a foetus grows in the womb – for example, making sure that the tubes that will eventually form the heart and gut twist around the right way. Finding out whether the mechanisms that set directions in fruit flies are similar to those in humans could shed light on what happens when developing tissues rotate the wrong way, resulting in birth defects and other problems.

Written by Kat Arney

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