New technique allows simultaneous tracking of gene expression and movement

December 15, 2008

Flies expressing green fluorescent protein (GFP) in their retina cells or other tissues can be tracked by specially modified video cameras, creating a real time computer record of movement and gene expression. The new technique, described in the open access journal BMC Biotechnology, will allow detailed analyses of correlations between behavior, gene expression and aging.

John Tower led a team of researchers from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, who carried out the fluorescent experiments in Drosophila flies. When the flies are illuminated with blue light, the authors' video tracking system allows tissue-specific GFP expression to be visualized, then quantified and correlated with 3D animal movement in real time. According to Tower, "These methods allow specific temporal patterns of gene expression to be correlated with temporal patterns of animal activity, behavior and mortality".

The green fluorescent protein gene is isolated from the jellyfish Aequorea victoria and encodes a protein that absorbs blue light and emits green light. When a fly expressing GFP is illuminated by blue LEDs, filtered cameras can detect the green fluorescence that results and the fly's movement can be tracked at a rate of 60 frames per second. By linking the expression of GFP to the expression of other reporter genes, it is possible to determine when these genes are on or off, and how this is associated with a fly's behavior.

Tower said, "A large number of strains exist where GFP or some other auto-fluorescent protein is used as a reporter for specific gene expression in Drosophila and other organisms. -Our methods should be readily adaptable to such reagents, for example we have recently been successful in tracking DsRED fluorescent flies".
-end-
Notes to Editors

1. Simultaneous tracking of fly movement and gene expression using GFP
Dhruv Grover, Junsheng Yang, Simon Tavaré and John Tower
BMC Biotechnology (in press)

During embargo, article available here: http://www.biomedcentral.com/imedia/1912702487208434_article.pdf?random=659500

After the embargo, article available at the journal website: http://www.biomedcentral.com/bmcbiotechnol/

Please name the journal in any story you write. If you are writing for the web, please link to the article. All articles are available free of charge, according to BioMed Central's open access policy.

Article citation and URL available on request at press@biomedcentral.com on the day of publication.

2. Pictures of the fluorescent flies can be found here:
http://www.biomedcentral.com/graphics/email/images/1-65DAYSOLD.jpg
http://www.biomedcentral.com/graphics/email/images/2MI4HEATSTRESS.jpg

Please credit Tower et al., BMC Biotechnology 2008

3. BMC Biotechnology is an open access journal publishing original peer-reviewed research articles in the manipulation of biological macromolecules or organisms for use in experimental procedures or in the pharmaceutical, agrobiological and allied industries. BMC Biotechnology (ISSN 1472-6750) is indexed/tracked/covered by PubMed, MEDLINE, BIOSIS, CAS, Scopus, EMBASE, Thomson Reuters (ISI) and Google Scholar.

4. BioMed Central (http://www.biomedcentral.com/) is an STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publisher which has pioneered the open access publishing model. All peer-reviewed research articles published by BioMed Central are made immediately and freely accessible online, and are licensed to allow redistribution and reuse. BioMed Central is part of Springer Science+Business Media, a leading global publisher in the STM sector.

BioMed Central

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