Fruit Fly Focus

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To most people, flies are pests. To Esther Betrán, they’re fascinating creatures (and only sometimes pests). The biology associate professor is examining the genomic structure of Drosophila, or fruit flies, for clues about the way male reproductive functions evolve. She has proposed a scientific model in which gene duplications rapidly change the function and characteristics of the flies’ testes tissue while leaving the genes that contribute to the characteristics of other tissues unchanged. If proved correct, her model could shift how scientists believe “sexually antagonistic conflicts”—when a gene’s expression is good for one sex but not for another—are resolved in the genome. The National Institutes of Health awarded Dr. Betrán a grant worth nearly $670,000 for her research.

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