Heres how fruit flies flourish even in high temperatures

June 12th, 2008 - 7:09 pm ICT by ANI  

London, June 12 (ANI): Brandeis University researchers have discovered that the fruit fly Drosophila has four large heat-responsive neurons located in its brain, which help it avoid slightly raised temperatures.

The researchers say that the finding is interesting because unlike humans, flies cannot manipulate the temperature of their surroundings, and thus need to pick the best spot for flourishing.

Led by Biologist Paul Garrity, the study also suggests that the internal warmth-sensing pathway acts together with a cold-avoidance pathway in the antennae to set the flys preferred temperature, enabling the fly to pick its optimal ambient temperature range for survival.

“We were very surprised to discover that flies used sensors in their brains to gauge environmental warmth. Large animals use peripheral neurons to monitor ambient temperature, and the prevailing view has been that the situation in small animals like fruit flies was similar,” said Garrity.

When the researchers undertook the study, they were hoping to find the peripheral warmth sensors.

However, the study eventually showed that the critical sensors were not peripheral after all, but rather tucked away inside the flys head.

“We don’t know the details yet, but our data suggest dTRPA1 may function a bit like a fire alarm. When the temperature inside the fly’s head gets too high, dTRPA1 activates these internal sensors that somehow help the fly move toward more hospitable climes,” said Garrity.

The researcher believe that their new findings being them a step closer to understanding how neurons help flies seek just the right temperature to ensure their survival.

They point out that such neural circuits are also potential targets for disrupting thermal preference, and other thermosensory behaviours in agricultural pests and disease vectors like malaria- and dengue-fever mosquitoes, who use heat-seeking to locate prey.

With global warming leading hundreds of species like insects, fish, birds, and mammals to seek out different environments in which temperature is more optimal, understanding the molecules and the internal neural cues that drive such behaviours may shed light on the strategies animals use to cope with changes in their environments.

The researchers also highlight that the molecules like dTRPA1, which control such responses, are evolutionarily conserved proteins that are important for pain and inflammation in humans.

They say that a deeper understanding of how such proteins work may be important for devising new approaches and medicines for treating pain and inflammation. (ANI)

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