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Drosophila Melanogaster and temperature control

Drosophila Melanogaster


Figure 1, Image of a Fruit fly or Drosophila Melanogaster(10)

Drosophila melanogaster is a species of fly, in the taxomic order of Diptera, which belongs to the Drosophilidae family. The most known name of this species is common fruit fly or the vinegar fly.

It was proposed as model organism by Charles W. Woodworth before 1930 and continues to be widely used for research in biology. The main study fields where this fly is used are genetics, physiology, microbial pathogenesis and the study of life history evolution. In addition, it is an easy-to-grow model in a standard research laboratory, it breeds quickly, has only four chromosomes and the reproduction level is very high, easing the study of embryogenesis thanks to the large number of eggs.

History behind D. melanogaster


Figure 2, Scheme of de D. melanogaster life cycle(10)

Drosophila melanogaster was the very first organism used for genetic analysis and even today is one of the most used eukaryotic model.(1) It is     an excellent model for genetics studies because it is a simple organism.

The first researcher that started to use it as a tool to study genetics was Thomas Junt Morgan from Columbia University, in 1940. In his “Fly Room” lab, he and his students used milk bottles to rear the fruit flies and handheld lenses to observe its different characteristics such as morphology and behaviour.  When the microscope(2) appear and substitute the lenses, the quality of the observations increased and Morgan and his students find out many basic principles of heredity. For examples sex-linked inheritance epistasis which is the phenomena where one gene’s expression needs the presence of another (or more) gene(s), the so-called “genetic background”. They also discover multiple alleles and gene mapping. This last one is the method to locate a gene and the relative distance between genes locations. Since that time and these discoveries, fly became a model organism for all the research studies related to genetics.


D. melanogaster, model organism for the study of genetics.

The fruit fly is considered one of the most studied organisms in biological research, especially in genetics and developmental biology for many reasons:

  • It is small and easy to grow in the laboratory. Its care and culture request little equipment and space even for large cultures. The overall cost is low compared with other organisms.
  • It has a very short generation time, around 10 day at room temperature, which allows the possibility to study different generations in short periods of time.
  • Related with the previous point, the fruit fly is a very fertile organism; females can lay up around 100 eggs per day and 2000 in a lifetime. (3)
  • It is very easy to analyse their morphology once they are anesthetized, normally this is done by using ether carbon dioxide gas or by cooling them.
  • Males and females are visibly different so they can be distinguish and there are techniques to isolate the virgin females to make genetic crossing experiments. Males do not show meiotic recombination which s ease genetic studies.
  • The mature larvae show enormous chromosomes in the salivary glands, these ones are called polytene chromosomes.(4) The common fruit fly has only four pairs of chromosomes, three autosomes and one pair of sexual ones.
  • It complete genome was sequenced and published in 2000. (5)

The influence of temperature in D. melanogaster

Each Drosophila species normally has its own temperature with differences in the optimal one and the range of the permissible ones. Although, the majority of the species shared a temperature threshold, that limits all kind of reproduction. For male flies, temperatures out of the 30°C-12°C range provoke sterility but there are some exceptions to this.(6) At temperatures outside the 32°C-10°C range the individual development of the Drosophila will not go through the whole life cycle. (7). It is necessary to mention that normally the male flies become fertile again if placing it back into a permissive temperature range. The development is usually slowed and stopped if the growing keeps under 10°C. It is only lethal is it reaches 0°C. On the other hand, if Drosophila is exposed for certain time to temperatures higher than 32°, irreversible damages occur. By exposing the flies during their growing process to extreme temperatures, it is possible to see different responses. Adult flies can avoid the extreme by escaping, an inherent feature which is part of their behaviour. Other ones respond by changing their morphology or the physiology inside their lifetime. The majority of these changes can be reversible. (8)


Dominant-negative (DTS) mutations due to temperature in fruit flies

Some studies identified as DTS two genes that are inside Drosophila’s genome that are beta2 and beta6 proteasome catalytic subunit genes. At restrictive temperatures, these DTS mutations provide lethality at the pupal stage. Furthermore, conditional over expression of the beta6 DTS mutant led to shaft-to-socket and to neuron-to sheath cell fate transformation. These are normally related to increased Notch signalling activity.(9)

These studies show how important can be temperature in the expression level of some ts mutations in Drosophila.

Pablo Salaverria,

PhD student inside the DivIDE Project



How could our temperature-control device CherryTemp, help in Drosophila studies?

As pointed out above, thermalize flies is crutial and scientists used to incubate the larva at the target temperature. However we may wonder how to make fast temperature changes and live imaging cells at the same time.

We designed CherryTemp, the world’s fastest heater-cooler for microscopy for Drosophila. The system allows to precisely maintain the temperature of your Drosophila sample, under microscopic observation, in the range of 5° to 45° C.

 CherryTemp, allows you to make temperature shifts in less than 10s and we design it to be robust, stable, user friendly and to fit with  any microscope settings.


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  2. Brown P. A review of techniques used in the preparation, curation and conservation of microscope slides at the Natural History Museum, London. Biol Curator [Internet]. 1997 [cited 2016 Oct 18]; Available from: http://sci-hub.cc/http://www.bcin.ca/Interface/openbcin.cgi?submit=submit&Chinkey=235940
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