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Open Access Highly Accessed Methodology article

Simultaneous tracking of fly movement and gene expression using GFP

Dhruv Grover1, Junsheng Yang1, Simon Tavaré12 and John Tower1*

Author Affiliations

1 Molecular and Computational Biology Program, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089-2910, USA

2 Department of Oncology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, CB2 2XZ, UK

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BMC Biotechnology 2008, 8:93  doi:10.1186/1472-6750-8-93

Published: 16 December 2008

Abstract

Background

Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) is used extensively as a reporter for transgene expression in Drosophila and other organisms. However, GFP has not generally been used as a reporter for circadian patterns of gene expression, and it has not previously been possible to correlate patterns of reporter expression with 3D movement and behavior of transgenic animals.

Results

We present a video tracking system that allows tissue-specific GFP expression to be quantified and correlated with 3D animal movement in real time. eyeless/Pax6 reporter expression had a 12 hr period that correlated with fly activity levels.

hsp70 and hsp22 gene reporters were induced during fly aging in circadian patterns (24 hr and 18 hr periods, respectively), and spiked in the hours preceding and overlapping the death of the animal. The phase of hsp gene reporter expression relative to fly activity levels was different for each fly, and remained the same throughout the life span.

Conclusion

These experiments demonstrate that GFP can readily be used to assay longitudinally fly movement and tissue-specific patterns of gene expression. The hsp22-GFP and hsp70-GFP expression patterns were found to reflect accurately the endogenous gene expression patterns, including induction during aging and circadian periodicity. The combination of these new tracking methods with the hsp-GFP reporters revealed additional information, including a spike in hsp22 and hsp70 reporter expression preceding death, and an intriguing fly-to-fly variability in the phase of hsp70 and hsp22 reporter expression patterns. These methods allow specific temporal patterns of gene expression to be correlated with temporal patterns of animal activity, behavior and mortality.