The Department of Genetics at the University of Cambridge is primarily located in a large Edwardian building close to the centre of town. The department has a long and distinguished history of Drosophila research beginning with John Thoday’s evolutionary genetics work in the late 1950s and continuing through Michael Ashburner’s wide-ranging studies from the 1970s onwards. A strong Drosophila theme persists to the present day, with seven fly groups currently active in the department. Research interests include computational genomics, cell cycle, cell polarity, neurobiology and host-parasite interactions. The department is also one of the four international locations of Flybase and undertakes the majority of literature curation for the database.
Drosophila research in the Department of Genetics is supported by its Fly Facility, which also provides a range of services to the wider fly community. The Fly Facility grew out of Michael Ashburner’s fly lab under the direction of John Roote, who retired in 2012, and was replaced by Simon Collier in spring 2013. Since 2010, the facility has operated on a non-commercial, cost-recovery basis, with running costs supported by charges for its services.
Of particular interest to the IGTRCN community is the Fly Facility’s embryo microinjection service. The facility currently performs around 500 microinjection series annually under the direction of Sang Chan, its Microinjection Specialist. Injections are performed for P-element transformation, phiC31 transgenesis, CRISPR genome engineering and other experiments. The facility also provides screening and balancing services. To date, injections have been primarily into D. melanogaster, but have included some non-melanogaster species (including psuedoobscura, sechellia and yakuba), and the facility aims to increase the range of insect hosts in the future.To date, injections have been primarily into D. melanogaster, but have included some non-melanogaster species (including psuedoobscura, sechellia and yakuba), and the facility aims to increase the range of insect hosts in the future.
“To date, injections have been primarily into D. melanogaster, but have included some non-melanogaster species (including psuedoobscura, sechellia and yakuba), and the facility aims to increase the range of insect hosts in the future.“
The Fly Facility has also provided support for some large-scale genetic projects, including the production of the Drosdel deficiency kit, as well as for individual group projects, such as the recent generation of novel split-Gal4 lines for the Greg Jefferis lab (MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge).
Fly Facility infrastructure includes a large fly lab (the John Thoday lab, opened in 2004) with 24 fly workstations and four large Constant Temperature rooms that will each hold around 15,000 fly stocks. The facility offers a Drosophila stock-keeping service and currently maintains stocks for 10 Cambridge fly groups. There is also a media room that makes around 6000 litres of fly food annually for 16 Cambridge fly groups. In addition, the facility has a dedicated cage facility for large fly cultures and an Isolation lab for working with quarantined stocks.
The Facility also aims to provide a range of resources for the fly community through the website. Currently there are links to a Drosophila training package developed in collaboration with the University of Manchester Fly Facility, and advice on culturing mite-free flies. Input from the community on other useful resources to include is welcome.