University of Southern California

Research

The secret life of fruit flies

A million tiny fruit flies live in the laboratory of Sergey Nuzhdin, professor of biological sciences at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. The flies are not (thankfully) buzzing around the room but safely contained in small glass vials — thousands of them. Nuzhdin and his team refer to this room as “The Flybrary.” It provides the raw material for their experiments using flies as models to study genomic analysis of social behavior. “Through our research we aim to understand the genetic basis of complex behaviors such as courtship, group formation, aggression and learning in Drosophila melanogaster, otherwise known as the fruit fly,” Nuzhdin said. “We are particularly interested in understanding the evolutionary and developmental consequences of interactions between an individual’s genes and his or her environment, focusing primarily on the social environment.” Working closely with Paul Marjoram, associate professor of research in preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, Nuzhdin is a staunch advocate of increasing cross-departmental collaboration between USC Dornsife and researchers on the Health Sciences Campus. Thanks to a Research Collaboration Fund award from the USC Office of Research Advancement led by Randolph Hall, vice president of research, Nuzhdin and Marjoram have received grants totaling $4.2 million to study the social behavior of flies as a model for complex behavior in humans. Major support came in two recent grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, aided by the National Institute of Mental Health. – See more at: https://news.usc.edu/#!/article/52998/the-secret-life-of-fruit-flies/