Caffeinated fruit flies help spot insecticide resistance

Posted Mar 30, 2014 by Tim Sandle
To understand genetic mechanisms underlying insecticide resistance, scientists employed the strange combination of fruit flies and caffeine.
Drosophila species fly.
Drosophila species fly.
Muhammad Mahdi Karim (GNU Free Documentation License)
One concern with modern agriculture is that crop pests are sometimes able to resist the chemical compounds known as xenobiotics that are devised to kill them. This development of resistance to insecticides is a serious problem because it threatens crop production. This has been looked at by the Genetics Society of America.
To understand the genetic mechanisms underlying insecticide resistance, University of Kansas scientists turned to the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster and caffeine, a stimulant drug that is often employed as a surrogate for xenobiotics in laboratory studies on resistance.
For the study, the researchers tested the response to caffeine for over 1,700 lines of fruit flies from the Drosophila Synthetic Population Resource (DSPR). They successfully mapped 10 stretches of DNA containing genes linked to either resistance or susceptibility to caffeine, and subsequently identified two genes that code for enzymes that are involved in detoxifying toxic compounds.