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Social Genes

February 9, 2011

Gene expression changes depending on whom you interact with.


Genes get social…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

When a male fruit fly encounters a female, he goes into courtship mode, serenading her by vibrating his wings. When he meets another male…not that much happens. Now, researchers have found that not only is his behavior different but so is his level of gene expression. Geneticist Ginger Carney of Texas A&M University says 16 genes in the male change when courting a female. But when a male fly encountered another male, several hundred genes were affected.

The magnitude of the difference between a male interacting with a female and a male interacting with a male is something we did not expect.

The study, published in the journal Genetics, shows that genes respond depending on whom you interact with – whether you’re a fruit fly or a human being. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.