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THE FRUIT FLY FIGHT CLUB:
A MODEL SYSTEM FOR THE STUDY OF AGGRESSION

Introduction: Aggression is a nearly universal feature of the behavior of social animals. In the wild, it is used access to food and shelter, for protection from predation and for selection of mates, all of which are essential for survival. Despite its importance, little is known of the neural mechanisms that underlie aggression. Clues about these mechanisms come from studies highlighting the importance of hormonal substances in the behavior. In essentially all species of animals, including man, amines like serotonin have been implicated in aggression. Moreover, good evidence supports the notion that a multiplicity of hormones and neurohormones influence this complex behavior. In vertebrate systems, in addition to amines, peptides like arginine vasopressin and gonadotropin releasing hormone, and steroids like testosterone are important modulators of aggression. Moreover, recent studies in both vertebrate and invertebrate systems suggest that neurohormonal systems interact with each other in complex ways to regulate, assemble and activate behavior.

Fruit flies and aggression: Recently the major focus of our laboratory shifted from studies with the American lobster to the examination of fighting behavior using common strains of the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. Although not widely known, fruit flies do fight and males at least become territorial (establish dominance relationships). With the genome fully sequenced and with elegant genetic tools available (like the GAL4/UAS system) for the selective manipulation of genes in subsets of central nervous system neurons, behavioral studies of aggression in flies offer a powerful experimental system for identifying the fundamental mechanisms underlying this behavior.

 

Designed by Yick-Bun Chan. Last edited 10/1/2007