Saturday, 11 October 2014

Yet Another Reason to Love the DNA!

(I know I record my spiritual journey on this blog, but God made genes, and I love genes, so I say this counts!)

I've had one of the most exciting weeks at university...not only because we extracted DNA from yeast, or discovered the marvellous intricacies of embryogenesis, but because I met Sonic Hedgehog! Yup, that's right...didn't know it was real either but apparently it's a big deal!
Note: Not the REAL thing!

Sonic Hedgehog is a gene, one of many in the hedgehog family of genes - its cousins include Desert Hedgehog, Indian Hedgehog and Tiggywinkle Hedgehog! Why the weird name? The protein product of this gene supposedly resembles the spiky little Sonic the Hedgehog! Stranger yet, I found that a verse in Isaiah talks about Hedgehogs: (Isa14:23) '...make it a possession of the hedgehog...' Totally out of context, but just thought it makes this post slightly spiritual! Just slightly?

This amused me so much that I decided to dedicate A LOT of time to research other funky genes - to my absolute delight, I found gazillions! While I wish I could share them all with you, time constraints have forced me to be satisfied with my 'top ten'...with one down, brace yourselves for the rest!

Swiss Cheese - A gene first discovered in fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) These regulate how glial cells are wrapped around neurons; in mutants however, they strangle them to death, producing a characteristic holed pattern that is similar to (you guessed it!) SWISS CHEESE!

Superman and Kryptonite - These plant genes (found in Arabidopsis thaliana) control the formation of a boundary between the carpel and stamen. It gets better, like the fictional Superman, the real Superman is suppressed by Kryptonite! I know what you are thinking! Just admit it - Genetics is COOL!

Genghis Khan - This post is beginning to feel like a joke! This bad guy does not go around conquering lands but resorts to a humbler role of regulating actin polymerisation, by coding for a serine/threonine protein kinase. I have no idea as to why this fruit fly gene carries the name of a great Mongolian emperor...may be something to do with destruction and phosphorylation?

Bubble Bath - Another plant gene! Mutants fill their cells up with many small vesicles, hence the name! Isn't that cute!

Ken and Barbie - I promise I am not joking! These are found in male and female fruit flies respectively. These are alleles of a gene responsible for sexual development.

Tin Man - This is by far one of the wittiest gene names ever! It is a homeobox gene in fruit flies (YAY for fruit fly geneticists everywhere!), responsible for the differentiation and proliferation of cardiac progenitor cells. Genes are often named according to their mutants, hence the Tin Man mutants lack a heart! Clever stuff!

Biblical genes (I told you this post was spiritual!) - The Sarah gene is involved in oocyte meiosis, courtship and ovulation in female fruit flies. A logical parallel to Sarah's miraculous conception in the Bible. I have heard that there are some others like Lot and Methuselah, but I haven't had the opportunity to authenticate those!

Finally, my favourite! One-Eyed Pinhead - If you know me well, you are familiar with the term 'Fish Head'; an insult(mostly aimed at myself) I sparingly use with love! By sounding so similar, One-Eyed Pinhead has made its way into my heart...you see, I love challenging conventional insults with these rather imaginative ones! Anyway, this zygotic zebrafish (Danio rerio) gene results in endodermal defects and more, when mutated. It is responsible for cell adhesion and movement. The name...well, that's probably the mutant...a pointy head with a single eye?

Sadly, I'll have to end there folks to get on with some much needed sleep! I hope you've enjoyed reading this as much as I've enjoyed researching and typing away! Seriously though...you're probably wishing you studied the DNA now right?