Hot clock key to fruit fly’s global spread

Heat-sensitive genetic molecule may have enabled some species to survive in wider range of climates

12:02pm, December 24, 2008

Sometimes, survival of the fittest means dependence on weak links.

Widely distributed fruit fly species have a temperature-sensitive step in the manufacture of a key part in their biological clocks. The heat-sensitive stumbling block may be the reason Drosophila melanogaster and Drosophila simulans have been able to spread to temperate zones while their cousins haven’t, a new study in the Dec. 26 Neuron suggests.

Previously, a research team led by molecular biologist Isaac Edery of Rutgers University in Piscataway, N.J., had discovered that, when the temperature rises, Drosophila melanogaster’s production of a major gear in the clock that governs its daily rhythms melts down. The gear, a protein known as PERIOD, helps set the circadian clock in fruit flies and many other animals.

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