Bi Flies Don't Bother Me

By Margaret Lyons in News on Dec 10, 2007 6:00PM

UIC's Dr. David Featherstone and his colleagues have isolated a gene in fruit flies that, when mutated, makes them bisexual. And not because they want to be on TV. Because their synapses work differently!

2007_12_10.gayfly.jpgFeatherstone et al published their findings in an article ("A glial amino-acid transporter controls synapse strength and homosexual courtship in Drosophila") in this month's Nature Neuroscience journal, which doesn't give its articles away for free online sadly. But apparently the researchers discovered that drosophila with the mutated gene "broaden their horizons and go for both males and females" because the flies overreacted to pheromones due to a super-powered synapse.

Researchers tested this idea by adding a drug to the flies' apple juice. The drug weakened the synapses. So within a few hours, flies with the GB mutation stopped engaging in homosexual behavior.

Conversely, researchers gave heterosexual male flies a drug that strengthened their synapses. Sure enough, these male flies soon were courting males as well as females.

So what, you say? Just a fly, you say? Well, "over 77% of human disease genes and 87% of human mental retardation genes have Drosophila orthologs," so it's possible these findings can teach us something about human sexuality.

Fruit fly pic by Max XX

[Now accepting funny but not offensive bisexual fly images! E-mail your entry to margaret at chicagoist.com; best bi fly gets some Chicagoist swag. Plus glory.]