Press Releases

The Paradox of Different House Flies with Few Genetic Differences

University of Houston Evolutionary Biologist Publishes Findings on Sex Determinates of House Flies


richard-meisel-microscope-newsroom Richard Meisel, UH assistant professor of biology and biochemistry, is reporting slight genetic differences in male house flies from the north and south. Though minute, the difference between the two types of flies is the position of the Y chromosome in the sequence of the genes.
By Laurie Fickman, University of Houston | September 6, 2019

In the steamy, often filthy world of the humble house fly, (the Musca domestica) clear division exists among the males of the species. Though not a civil war, there are differences, to be sure, between males in the north and those that hail from the south. Finding out why those differences appear in the genetic sequences of the northerners and southerners is key to understanding nothing less than sex determination, but there is an essential paradox: The genetic difference is trivial.

“We are seeing a physical difference and that tells us we will see a genetic difference that gives rise to the physical difference, but we find very little genome differences,” reports Richard Meisel, UH assistant professor of biology and biochemistry, in the September cover article of Genetics journal. The physical alteration suggests temperature is a meaningful difference between the two types of males.

“We want to know how these things that are so physically different in an evolutionarily meaningful way can have such similar genetics,” said Meisel.

The September 2019 cover article of the Genetics journal features UH biologist Richard Meisel’s work on sex determination of house flies.

The heart of Meisel’s work is sex determination. Scientists understand it relatively well in humans – a gene on the Y chromosome initiates the male developmental process, and the process is the same in almost all mammals. But outside the class of mammals, sex determination operates differently. The house fly has substantial variation in how the male/female decision is made. There are two common ways that male development can be initiated, and they differ in their geographical distributions. One male-determining variant predominates at northern latitudes, and the other is more common in the south.

Y is why

Though minute, the difference between the two types of flies is the position of the Y chromosome in the sequence of the genes.

“If Y is the reason then there has to be something genetically about that chromosome that allows it to be that reason,” said Meisel. “It’s hard for us to wrap our heads around how that trivial amount of difference in the genome sequence causes this variation,” said Meisel, adding that evidence indicates natural selection maintains sex determination in the house fly.

Along with graduate student Jae Hak Son, Meisel examined Y chromosomes by performing mRNA-sequencing experiments to measure gene expression in male house flies carrying different Y chromosomes. The exploration allows him to identify candidate phenotype differences between males upon which natural selection can act to maintain the variation in sex determination.

“Our results suggest that, if natural selection maintains polygenic sex determination in house fly via gene expression differences, the phenotypes under selection likely depend on a small number of genetic targets,” he said.

Leo Beukeboom at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands and Daniel Bopp at the University of Zurich are also on Meisel’s team.




Social Posts

profile_image

Harris Health System

@harrishealth

Happy Fall! https://t.co/wjF8teaVxm

18 mins ago
profile_image

Texas Children's

@TexasChildrens

Learn more about the rise of the anti-vaccination movement in @TexasChildrens second season of Outcomes. Listen here: https://t.co/4a9hcW4WyQ #OutcomesPodcast #TexasChildrens https://t.co/MxsKLH8Ory

24 mins ago
profile_image

TexasHeartInstitute

@Texas_Heart

RT @MoveItMonday: You don't have to leave your chair to #MoveItMonday! Try these three simple chair yoga exercises to stretch away stress,…

29 mins ago
profile_image

University of Houston

@UHouston

RT @houstonalumni: Naming the mascot “Shasta” was an idea that came in 1947 when Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity bought UH’s first live…

35 mins ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

#Clinicaltrials are at the core of our mission to #endcancer. Learn from our Dr. Patrick Hwu how they help us discover new treatments to benefit future and current patients: https://t.co/ENqWbPrvNt https://t.co/Jkuu9JlXbg

43 mins ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran Charles J. Gestrich, who served as a railway mail clerk during the Korean War from 1951 to 1953: https://t.co/6mzBvGdZtR

55 mins ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

@USMC Veteran Kionte lost his leg in an IED blast. During recovery, he experienced depression and sought support. Visit https://t.co/tBxE005jeW to hear more about Kionte’s journey back to physical and mental health.

1 hour ago
profile_image

Rice University

@RiceUniversity

Malawi’s national adoption of affordable neonatal CPAP technology developed at @Rice360atRiceU resulted in sustained improvements in the survival of babies with respiratory illness, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. https://t.co/mYtNlEf8uz

1 hour ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

@USMC Veteran Kionte lost his leg in an IED blast. During his recovery, he experienced depression and sought support. Visit https://t.co/tBxE005jeW to hear more about Kionte’s journey back to physical and mental health.

1 hour ago
profile_image

Rice University

@RiceUniversity

RT @RiceUNews: Here's to 10 years of fun and fitness!@ricerec is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a week of events, starting today…

1 hour ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

Happy 20th Birthday to the Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative! Find out how this program has grown over the last two decades. https://t.co/S5PSODwhVt #BIPAI

1 hour ago
profile_image

Houston Methodist

@MethodistHosp

@lesmiskid @blummer27 @JuliaMorales @RealToddKalas @astros Thanks for sharing this great pic!

2 hours ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

How researchers, led by our Dr. Rodabe Amaria, are working to make pre-surgical treatment an option for more #melanoma patients: https://t.co/ljUwUPQxav #endcancer

3 hours ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

Each year, our faculty and staff are given a work day to pursue a volunteer activity they are passionate about. Learn about some of their experiences. https://t.co/xErhwmEeds #volunteering #community https://t.co/uupd0H3YVS

3 hours ago
profile_image

Rice University

@RiceUniversity

RT @RiceUNews: Wondering about the new #art going up inside Brochstein Pavilion this week?It's the first in @RiceUniversity Public Art’s…

3 hours ago