Functional Genomics

The Genetic Metamorphosis of the Fruit Fly as a Monarch

Monarch flies are poisonous to its predators for simply reasons; it is able to digest the chemical toxins present in milkweed that it’s feed on and its body is capable of retaining it so that its predators die when they consume it. The fruit flies on the other hand are not equipped with poisonous armorers as they don’t digest or retain the toxic chemicals. Monarch flies thus have the superpowers to protect themselves from their predators. Gene editing come to the rescue of the fruit flies, as it could change the personality traits by simply getting rid of certain genetic characteristic features.

Monarch Fly

3 simple genetic changes would turn a fruit fly to store the toxic chemicals while they transform them from a maggot fly to adult and this could be achieved by changing three amino acids in a protein called the sodium pump alpha subunit. Researchers by employing the gene editor CRISPR/Cas9 could alter the sodium pumps of fruit flies to insensitive to cardiac glycosides found in toxic chemicals of milkweeds.

Indeed, the amino acids are essential for the fruit flies at various stages of reproduction; hence no drastic changes can be made at once. The researchers thus adapted a stage wise approach from the eggs through adulthood by carefully exposing them to the chemicals.

However, it is not without evil consequences. When contacted with the toxic chemicals, Monarch flies become temporarily paralyzed when exposed to the chemicals. However, it turns them gradually tough to its predators as they become poisonous.

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