Life Sciences


Merritt Taylor


The ability of an organism to sense and avoid noxious stimuli, including extreme temperatures, is an integral component of its survival and wellbeing. To effectively adapt to changes in environmental temperatures, animals have evolved specialized thermosensory systems which allow them to detect and respond to potentially harmful temperatures (temperature preference). Similarly, the degree in which an animal can endure suboptimal temperatures (thermal tolerance) is one of the most important factors governing its ability to survive daily and seasonal variations in temperature. Recently, work in the Gallio lab supports the hypothesis that a cytochrome, Cyp6a17, is a potential mediator of both cold avoidance (in the context of temperature preference) and cold tolerance in Drosophila melanogaster. As one of the known functions of proteins in the cytochrome P450 family is the oxidation of membrane lipids, our hypothesis is that Cyp6a17 may play a role in both thermosensation and cold tolerance by helping to modify the fluidity of neuronal cell membranes through lipid oxidation at colder temperatures. In order to study the function of the Cyp6a17 gene product, the gene was cloned and expressed in culture (both mammalian and Drosophila). By the successful synthesis and expression of two constructs, pcDNA3.1-Cyp6a17 and pAC-Cyp6a17, this project has laid the ground work to continue investigating the role of Cyp6a17 as a link between cold temperature preference and thermal tolerance.