SITE VISIT: Delving Into Drosophila

Science  15 May 1998:
Vol. 280, Issue 5366, pp. 975
DOI: 10.1126/science.280.5366.975a

Pioneering studies in the 1930s of where genes lay along chromosomes are one reason the fruit fly remains a favorite research model. Cottoning on to the critter's value, the Web now holds a wealth of information on Drosophila melanogaster, from encyclopedias of genes to neuroscience primers.

Students might start with The Interactive Fly, a Web guide created by Thomas Brody, an immunologist who wanted to teach himself developmental biology after several years away from science. So 2 years ago he and his wife Judy created a site that links 350-and-counting Drosophila genes to their roles in development—from those that shape the early embryo on up to genes for memory (http://sdb.bio.purdue.edu/fly/aimain/1aahome.htm). Loaded with information on protein function, mutation effects, homologous genes in other organisms, and links to Medline abstracts, the site is “the only place where you can go up and down the hierarchy” of development, says Brody, adding, “it explains what the [Human] Genome Project is about.”

Brody's site also connects with FlyBase, the central storehouse for Drosophila info (funded mainly by the National Institutes of Health) with chromosome maps, genetic and protein data, researchers' addresses, and references (http://flybase.bio.indiana.edu/). For easier access to the latest genomic data, FlyBase soon plans to merge with fruit fly genome sequencing Web sites at Berkeley and in Europe. Other sites specializing in images, gene interactions, the nervous system, and more are listed in the handy Drosophila Virtual Library, http://ceolas.org/fly/.

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