Drosophila Research Captures our Hearts and Attention

By Liz Silva
EveryOne: PLoS Community Blog
Posted: March 19, 2012

The American Heart Association Council on Functional Genomics and Translational Biology recently released their list of “Top Advances in Functional Genomics and Translational Biology for 2011” and we are pleased to announce that PLoS ONE article “A mighty small heart: the cardiac proteome of adult Drosophila melanogaster”(1) is one of 10 featured publications! All 10 articles were summarized in a paper published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics, published by the American Heart Association(2). The finalists were selected from hundreds of papers in the literature, with input from the Early Career Committee of the Council on Functional Genomics and Translational Biology.

In this article, Cammarato and colleagues describe the full complement of proteins that exist in the adult Drosophila heart. The insect heart, also referred to as the dorsal vessel, is a simple pulsing tube that maintains the flow of haemolymph (ie. bug blood) through its open circulatory system (lower image and inset, shown with nearby abdominalmuscle). The haemolymph is not restricted to vessels — there are no veins and arteries — but instead bathes the tissues in one big internal cavity. Unlike our circulatory systems, the insect system has no role in delivering oxygen to tissues and cells, so the haemolymph contains no red blood cells. Similarly to our system, it does carry various immune cells and nutrients necessary for the health and function of the animal. Despite any differences, we have long known that many of the genes involved in making a fly heart are the same as those needed to make a mammalian heart.

The authors of the PLoS ONE study carry out a comprehensive survey of proteins that make up the adult Drosophila heart. Importantly, they compared their results to those found by researchers that have examined adult mouse hearts, and the similarities they identified are astonishing. Essentially, the authors have paved the way for new studies that will use Drosophila in research of heart disease and its treatment.

For decades, research in Drosophila has provided insight into various complex biomedical problems, and now we can turn to this model to fight the number one cause of death worldwide (3). We offer our heartfelt congratulations to Cammarato and colleagues, and we ask that you forgive the pun.

1. Cammarato A, …& Foster DB. (2011) PLoS ONE 6(4): e18497.
2. Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics. 2012; 5: 143-145 doi: 10.1161/CIRCGENETICS.111.962621
3. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs310/en/index.html