Gay Gene?

11 12 2007

Scientists Make Fruit Flies Gay, Then Straight Again

By Robert Roy Britt

Is this BS? or not? discuss.

While several studies find homosexuality in humans and other animals is biological rather than learned, a question remains over whether it’s a hard-wired phenomenon or one that can be altered.

A new study finds that both drugs and genetic manipulation can turn the homosexual behavior of fruit flies on and off within a matter of hours.

• Click here to visit’s Natural Science Center.

While the genetic finding supports the thinking that homosexuality is hard-wired, the drug finding surprisingly suggests it’s not that simple.

In fact, homosexuality in the fruit flies seems to be regulated by how they interpret the scent of another.

Dramatic result

Homosexuality is widespread in the animal world. But scientists have long debated whether, in humans a “gay gene” exists.

Previous research in humans has suggested that how we interpret scents given off by another person might impact our sexuality.

In the new work, University of Illinois at Chicago researcher David Featherstone and coworkers discovered a gene in fruit flies they call “genderblind,” or GB. A mutation in GB turns flies bisexual.
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GB transports the neurotransmitter glutamate to brain cells. Altering levels of glutamate change the strength of nerve cell junctions, called synapses, which play a key role in human and animal behavior.

Post-doctoral researcher Yael Grosjean found that all male fruit flies with a mutation in their GB gene courted other males.

“It was very dramatic,” Featherstone said. “The GB mutant males treated other males exactly the same way normal male flies would treat a female. They even attempted copulation.”


Other genes are known to alter sexual orientation, but most just control whether the brain develops as genetically male or female. It’s not known why a male brain does male things and a female brain acts in female ways, Featherstone and his colleagues say…”




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