|Meet the Interactive Fly|
The genes involved in the development of the fruit fly (or Drosophila -- sounds like Druh-SOPH-illa), with few exceptions, are the same as those involved in the development of higher organisms. Developmental biology studies the sequential activation and interaction of genes, in relation to developing morphology. Right now, Drosophila is the only organism for which one can begin with a list of genes active in the egg and follow the morphological changes and gene activations through to adulthood.
Drosophila studies have provided the widest knowledge base available for any single organism; accordingly, developmental biologists use the fly to ferret out the activity of genes with similar functions in higher organisms. Despite its small size, the fly is by no means a small developmental problem. Drosophila is just one level of magnitude less complex than you or I. If you know the genes involved in the development of the fly, you also know, to a reasonable approximation, the genes involved in the development of the worm, the fish, the mouse, and for that matter, ourselves.
The biochemical information compiled in The Interactive Fly is based on recent experimental work, most of it carried out during the last 10 years. The developmental genetics of Drosophila however, is nearly a century old.
These are exciting times. For the first time in history, questions can be answered, or at least, begin to be answered, that have been asked since the dawn of human curiosity. And whatever information we find may be made accessible -- easily, instantly and world wide -- via the Internet. You are invited to join the inquiry: where do we come from? How are we put together? How do we develop?
The origin of the Interactive Fly:
When I couldn't find the answers to my own questions in any single, easily referenced source, I turned to the original literature. Little by little, the information built up on thousands of cards and notebook pages. What better place to store it, organize it and look at it than in cyberspace? The Interactive Fly was first released in July 1996, with updates at approximately one month intervals through edition 13 (September 1997). Starting with edition 14, the schedule for on-line updates changed to quarterly (at a minimum), if not more frequently. I hope that you will find this information useful and interesting. The biological overview section for each gene is written with the non-specialist in mind.
The Interactive Fly is the un-funded work of one curator (Tom Brody), and one copy editor (Judith Brody). It is made freely available on-line through the generous collaboration of the Society for Developmental Biology and FlyBase, an international consortium of the Drosophila research community.
I encourage you to visit the original sources for the articles in journals or on the Internet. The two single best on-line sources for information on Drosophila that I have found are FlyBase and Medline, both of which are used by professionals in the biological sciences.
Your feedback will be appreciated.
The Interactive Fly resides on the
Society for Developmental Biology's Web server.