MAGIC Drosophila Research for Understanding Human Disease

Tens of thousands of strains of drosophila, or fruit fly, have been developed for research purposes since the early twentieth century. Along with these drosophila resources, researchers have developed increasingly sophisticated techniques for using drosophila to study human disease and biological development. Mosaic analysis is one such technique, involving drosophila that carry two or more genetically distinct populations of cells in a single organism. Mosaic analysis is a powerful research tool for investigating human disease, but it is limited by its reliance on the Flp/FRT site-specific recombination system. The Flp/FRT system restricts application of mosaic analysis to a small subset of fly strains, because most existing drosophila resources do not harbor the FRT sites that the system requires.

Chun Han, Molecular Biology and Genetics, is developing tools for a new mosaic technique—called gRNA-induced crossing-over, or MAGIC—that does not require site-specific recombination. This research will establish an optimized MAGIC tool kit for tissue-specific mosaic analysis across the entirety of the drosophila genome. The resulting tool kit will work with unmodified chromosomes, making it compatible with nearly all existing drosophila resources without the need for further genetic modifications.

This research will greatly enhance the value of drosophila for understanding human disease by expanding the utility of existing drosophila resources for systematic gene-function analysis, genome-wide genetic screens, and tissue-specific analysis of natural variants. As part of this project, researchers will also conduct MAGIC screens in neurons and epithelial cells to search for genomic deletions that harbor genes important for understanding human diseases.

Cornell Researchers

Funding Received

$2.7 Million spanning 4 years