Cognitive morphs in Drosophila

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanJul 19, 2007 10:07 PM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Natural polymorphism affecting learning and memory in Drosophila:

Knowing which genes contribute to natural variation^ in learning and memory would help us understand how differences^ in these cognitive traits evolve among populations and species.^ We show that a natural polymorphism at the foraging (for) locus,^ which encodes a cGMP-dependent protein kinase (PKG), affects^ associative olfactory learning in Drosophila melanogaster. In^ an assay that tests the ability to associate an odor with mechanical^ shock,

flies homozygous for one natural allelic variant of this^ gene (



) showed better short-term but poorer long-term memory^ than flies homozygous for another natural allele


). The^


allele is characterized by reduced PKG activity. We showed^ that


-like levels of both short-term learning and long-term^ memory can be induced in


flies by selectively increasing^ the level of PKG in the mushroom bodies, which are centers of^ olfactory learning in the fly brain. Thus, the natural polymorphism^ at for may mediate an evolutionary tradeoff between short- and^ long-term memory.

The respective strengths of learning performance^ of the two genotypes seem coadapted

with their effects on foraging^ behavior:


flies move more between food patches and so could^ particularly benefit from fast learning, whereas


flies^ are more sedentary, which should favor good long-term memory.

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month
Already a subscriber? Log In or Register
1 free articleSubscribe
Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%


Already a subscriber? Log In or Register
More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 70% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2021 Kalmbach Media Co.