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Uncovering the genetic basis behind locomotor variation in Drosophila Melanogaster

Presenters Name: 
Ingrid Kenyon
Primary Research Mentor: 
Jay Hirsh
Secondary Research Mentor: 
1:15 - 1:30
Time of Presentation: 
2019 - 1:15pm to 1:30pm
South Meeting Room
Presentation Type: 
Presentations Academic Category: 
Grant Program Recipient: 
USOAR Program

The fruit fly, Drosophila Melanogaster, has been studied genetically for over 100 years and serves as a model organism for genetic processes in humans due to conservation of many developmental and behavioral pathways. My project seeks to determine genes responsible for differing levels of locomotor activity between two closely related wild-type strains of Drosophila in order to obtain a better understanding of the mechanisms behind such changes. I used a Linux based computational protocol to perform a Genome Wide Association Study (GWAS) to locate and identify genetic variants that are associated with phenotypic differences observed between flies that display high and low levels of locomotor activity. This study yielded a "Manhattan plot" of single nucleotide variants showing association with the phenotype, allowing visualization of regions of phenotypic association along each chromosome. I recently performed a second GWAS on a better controlled group of flies in order to corroborate this first study and better narrow in on these regions of high association. Genes isolated from these two studies can be investigated further through the use of knockdown and overexpression studies to determine their effects in live flies. Overall, the goal is to uncover the genes responsible for these quantitative locomotor differences in our wild-type flies, allowing us to better understand what mechanisms control this process.