The genetic tools available for use in Drosophila melanogaster are second to none. Insect scientists working on other insect systems and who also want to acquire or develop various genetic technologies should always be keeping their eyes on technological developments within the D. melanogaster research community.
Koen Venken, an IGTRCN Participant and member of the Short-Course Working Group, along with Hugo Bellen have published a nice review of some of these technologies, a good number of which they have developed.
Genome sequence data enabled the development of many of the genetic technologies in Drosophila and will do the same for other insects. Venken and Bellen state that “These technologies have dramatically changed the landscape by which we approach biological questions in fruit flies. It is now possible to mutate, modify, and tag virtually every fly gene.”
Venken and Bellen limit their discussion to forward genetic tools including chemical mutagenesis, transposons and transgenes and what is impressive is the sheer number of technologies available and their variety.
Although chemical mutagenesis may not be used that often in other insect systems because of the lack of other genetic resources that enable this approach to be fully exploited a recent example of its use was by Tagu et al (2014). They describe their use of EMS mutagenesis in the pea aphid (link to igtrcn page). Venken and Bellen’s discussion of transposons and transgenes should be of particular interest to those working on insects other than D. melanogaster.
The authors use an abundance of figures that clearly illustrate how the various technologies work. Many of these technologies could be adapted for use in other insects for which transposon vectors are available.
Finally, the authors advise users or potential users of these technologies “that the toolsets need to be used with caution and that the users need to know the strengths and weaknesses of these resources.” Definitely good advice and the IGTRCN with the help of Koen and others from the D. melanogaster research community who are Network Participants will help other follow this advice.
Chemical mutagens, transposons, and transgenes to interrogate gene function in Drosophila melanogaster
Koen J.T. Venken, Hugo J. Bellen,
Methods Volume 68, Issue 1, 15 June 2014, Pages 15–28