Meeting Organizers

Tin Tin Su, Chair
Gio Bosco
Pamela Geyer
Noah K. Whiteman

Drosophila Home      FlyNews 2018

FlyNews - Winter 2018

photo of flies
Image credit: NASA/Dominic Hart [CC BY-NC 2.0]

2018 Fly Board Officers

Deborah Andrew

Bruce Edgar

Laura Johnston

David Bilder
Past-President and Elections Chair

Ken Irvine
Past-President and Member-at-Large

Michelle Arbeitman

A Note from the Fly Board President

Image: “LOVE Philly” by Gene Tobia. [CC BY-SA 2.0]

The 59th Annual Drosophila Research Conference (ADRC) will be held in the city of brotherly love – Philadelphia, PA – April 11-15, 2018, at the Downtown Marriott. This is a great opportunity to network and catch up on the latest and greatest in Drosophila research and do some historic sightseeing. Notable historic sites include the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were signed. A visit to the Mütter Museum affords an opportunity to learn about the history of spinal surgery, see a skull collection from the 1800s, view the soap lady, and see the tallest skeleton on exhibit in North America, as well as the skeleton of Harry Eastlack, who suffered from fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, a bone disease linked to defective BMP signaling.

The 59th ADRC meeting organizers are Tin Tin Su (chair), Gio Bosco, Pamela Geyer, and Noah Whiteman. The meeting officially opens Wednesday evening with a keynote talk by Terry Orr-Weaver and a talk by the winner of this year’s Larry Sandler Award, followed by a meeting reception.

Special events returning from last year include the New Faculty Forum (Wednesday, April 11, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.) and the How I Fly (HIF) Science Slam (Saturday, April 14, 7:30 – 10:00 p.m.). A new opportunity for GSA member postdocs and graduate students seeking expert feedback allows them to invite up to three scientists (faculty, industry researchers, or fellow early career scientists) to visit their posters. Instructions on how to do this will be in the abstract assignment e-mail coming in January.

The organizers have also invited the winners of this year’s Nobel Prize in Medicine – Michael W. Young, Michael Rosbash, Jeffrey C. Hall – to come to the meeting; details will follow once the winners have responded.

Upcoming meeting deadlines

News from the Fly Board

Congratulations to the newly elected members of the Fly Board!

President-elect (2019):
Mark Peifer (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

Regional representatives:
Great Lakes: Michael Welte (University of Rochester)
Southeast: Laura Reed (University of Alabama)
Midwest: Tina Tootle (University of Iowa)
Heartland: Erika Geisbrecht (Kansas State University)
Canada: Julie Brill (The Hospital for Sick Children and University of Toronto)

The Fly Board functions to support the interests of Drosophila researchers in the US and abroad, manage resources, and work with the GSA and meeting organizers to coordinate the Annual Drosophila Research Conference. The board meets annually just before the ADRC and communicates throughout the year on a variety of issues affecting the Drosophila research community. Fly Board members will be present for the duration of the ADRC and are identifiable by special ribbons attached to their name tags, so please feel free to speak to them about any issue that comes to mind. For the rest of the year, your regional representative is your voice on the board, so feel free to contact them or any of the Fly Board officers if you have ideas, issues, or concerns. Names and e-mail addresses of current board members, as well as additional information about the Fly Board (such as who is the representative for your region), can be found at

News from FlyBase

(The Good, the Bad and the Ugly): Flybase is currently supported by the US National Institutes of Health (NHGRI – 90%) and the British Medical Research Council (MRC – 10%). A competing renewal for the NIH grant that has supported FlyBase for the past 25 years was submitted in 2017 and received a perfect score (10), securing continued NIH funding for FlyBase through March 31, 2023 (the Good). NHGRI has informed FlyBase that budget cuts of 15% in year one (which, with rising costs, is normalized to 20%), and 20% (normalized to 30%) in subsequent years will be made as a general trend toward reducing the amount NHGRI will invest in model organism databases (the Bad). These budget cuts will not allow FlyBase to continue to function as a useful resource to deliver high-quality, essential curation and tools at a time when the rate of new information accumulation is increasing and the relevance of FlyBase to the broader biomedical community has never been clearer. Having exhausted several options, including directly raising money from other funding sources (Norbert Perrimon – the PI of FlyBase – sent over 51 letters to 20 countries to explore the possibility of tapping into funding agencies outside the US and the UK), the Fly Board approves of a plan whereby FlyBase will invoice users (the Ugly). The following fee structure (with user number determined by lab heads) will be implemented in year one (after which the fee structure will be reevaluated depending on the level of funds raised). US and UK user fees will be lower given that the NIH-supported community represents ~40% of usage and the UK community ~10%. FlyBase is in the process of testing the billing approach, and if it goes well with most universities, a fee link on FlyBase will become active ASAP. FlyBase and the Fly Board regret that this action is necessary and they will continue to explore additional avenues to support this vital resource.

US and UK users $150.00 per year per user
Non-US and non-UK users $300.00 per year per user
For-profit users $750.00 per year per user

News from DGRC

The Drosophila Genomics Resource Center (DGRC), which provides cell lines, cDNAs, and useful vectors, is now in its 15th year as an NIH-funded resource center. The competing NIH renewal was submitted in 2017 and also received a perfect score (10), hopefully securing continued NIH funding for DGRC through 2023. Andrew Zelhof (director of DGRC) hopes to have more information on actual funding at the 59th Annual Drosophila Research Conference. The latest updates and news about DGRC collections can be obtained at the DGRC website.

News from BDSC

The Bloomington Drosophila Stock Center (BDSC) highlights two new stock acquisition efforts. They have recently obtained 7,300 split-GAL4 stocks from the Janelia Research Campus; these lines allow UAS constructs to be expressed only in the overlap of two gene expression patterns. The split-GAL4 transgenes express either the GAL4 DNA-binding domain or the transcriptional activation domain under the control of gene-specific regulatory sequences. In cells where both domains are expressed and the GAL4 domains can dimerize, UAS constructs will be expressed. This intersectional strategy allows experimental control of gene expression in smaller sets of cells than typically available with regular GAL4 transgenes, and has been used extensively for defining and manipulating neural circuits in the brain. Public distribution of these stocks has been made possible for a limited time by support from NINDS and NIH-OD. Scientists are encouraged to explore these stocks and report those that are most useful so that a subset can be retained on a long-term basis.

BDSC has also begun distributing stocks from Norbert Perrimon and colleagues that utilize CRISPR technology to either knock out gene expression or misexpress genes in targeted cells (See details below in the New Tools section). Bloomington has nearly 500 guide RNA stocks and anticipates receipt of hundreds more over the next few years. They also have almost 50 stocks where various GAL4 drivers are combined with different versions of Cas9. These stocks provide alternatives to cell-specific gene knockdown by RNAi or cell-specific misexpression using gene-specific UAS constructs.

BDSC also has a new website that you should check out.

New Tool Development, Access, and Distribution

Drosophila RNAi Screening Center/Transgenic RNAi Project (DRSC/TRiP) Functional Genomics Resources are creating TRiP-CRISPR lines for gene knockout and overexpression. Transgenes expressing guide RNAs directed to internal gene sequences are combined with UAS-Cas9 transgenes and cell-specific GAL4 drivers to knock out gene function. Transgenes expressing guide RNAs directed to upstream sequences are combined with UAS constructs expressing nuclease-dead Cas9 fused to a transcriptional activation domain and cell-specific GAL4 drivers to ectopically express genes. It is anticipated that ~10,000 lines for knockout and ectopic activation will be generated (and sent to BDSC) by project end in three years.

The DRSC now supports large-scale Variable Dose Analysis (VDA) and CRISPR sgRNA screens in pooled or arrayed formats. Read about VDA here. Contact S. Mohr to learn more about use of these robust new screening technologies with your existing or new cell-based assays.

The DRSC bioinformatics team announces the release of two new resources: Gene2Function, which facilitates search of orthologs and other information across model organisms, and the Molecular Interaction Search Tool (MIST) for protein-protein and genetic interactions. They also have a new YouTube demo for the DIOPT ortholog search tool.

The TRiP has transitioned from predominantly RNAi fly stock production to development of new in vivo CRISPR resources for either gene overexpression (TRiP-OE) or gene cutting (TRiP-KO).

Read about TRiP-CRISPR stocks.
Nominate and search TRiP-CRISPR stocks.
Obtain TRiP-CRISPR stocks from the BDSC, which lists available stocks on their guideRNAs page. Contact Jonathan Zirin with any questions about the new resources.

FlyBi project

The FlyBi Consortium (DRSC/Norbert Perrimon, BDGP/Susan Celniker, CCSB/Marc Vidal) is releasing high-throughput data from yeast two-hybrid analysis of 10,000 x 10,000 fly ORFs.

T2A-GAL4 lines and the Drosophila Genome Disruption Project

The labs of Hugo Bellen, Allan Spradling, and Norbert Perrimon have generated and characterized a library of ~1,000 tagged genes based on MiMIC and CRIMIC technology (Pei-Tseng Lee et al., in preparation). The genes were tagged by insertion of SA-T2A-GAL4-polyA (T2A-GAL4) in coding introns either by converting existing MiMIC lines with T2A-GAL4 using the method described in Diao et al.(~620 lines) or by using CRISPR-induced homologous recombination (~ 380 lines). ~550 embryos were injected for each gene, with a 70% transformation success rate. Expression patterns were characterized in the third instar larval brain and VNC, as well as in adult brains. ~90% of the insertions caused a severe disruption of gene function based on the failure of insertions in essential genes to complement established lethal mutations. All lethal insertions on the X-chromosome that were tested were rescued with the P[acman] clones created by Venken et al. The T2A-GAL4 can be used to drive UAS-flippase to revert lethality of most genes that contain CRIMIC insertions tested. This allows the removal of the mutation at any stage of development using an hs-FLP or an FLP driven by another binary system. T2A-GAL4 driven UAS GFP/RFP allows determination of gene expression patterns, even for genes with low endogenous expression. ~80% of the tagged genes are expressed in the CNS, with 94% of these expressed in neurons. 4% are glia-specific and 2% are trachea-specific. The expression patterns of almost all the tested genes had not been previously reported. T2A-GAL4 can drive expression of a UAS-cDNA of the corresponding gene. Notably, 70% of the insertions that cause lethality were rescued with a single UAS-cDNA, thus permitting structure-function analyses. This finding was not anticipated given that 95% of the genes tested have more than one transcript and many essential genes, with between 3-22 different transcript isoforms, were rescued with a single cDNA. Finally, all genes tagged with T2A-GAL4 can be tagged with SA-GFP-SD or other cassettes. The very useful T2A-GAL4 strains are being deposited in the BDSC.

A Comprehensive Human cDNA Library for Functional Gene Replacement in Flies

Principal Investigators Hugo Bellen and Susan Celniker, working with Shinya Yamamoto and Hillary Graves, are producing a new resource for expressing ~8,000 validated high-quality full-length human protein coding HA-tagged ORF cDNAs of genes conserved between human and Drosophila. Selected genes include those associated with known human diseases, those with fly homologs that can be easily manipulated with available tools, and those prioritized by other researchers (Drosophila biologists and human geneticists). Although the project is in its early stages, the group has already generated nearly 1,000 unique UAS-cDNA clones (vectors: pUASg-HA.attB or pGW-HA.attB from Konrad Basler). Clones will be available from DGRC. In addition, the group will produce ~1,500 transgenic fly lines from a subset of these clones. The UAS-cDNAs are being inserted into specific loci (attP86Fb, VK33 or VK37) using the phiC31 integrase. So far, UAS-cDNAs transgenic stocks have been generated for ~450 human genes. Transgenic fly stocks will be available from the BDSC. The human cDNA clones and corresponding fly strains will allow Drosophila and human researchers to test the functional replacement of Drosophila genes with human homologs and assess if human variants affect gene function.

Other News from the Greater Drosophila Community

A conference organized as part of the #DrosAfrica effort has led to the launch in July 2017 of the African Society of Drosophilists.

The Department of Genome Sciences at the University of Washington will host an all-day symposium in honor of Larry Sandler in the spring of 2019. All former trainees and colleagues are invited to attend.

Thomas Hurd is a new PI in the Department of Molecular Genetics at University of Toronto.  Thomas’ research program will focus on mitochondrial DNA inheritance through the female germline and how mitochondria influence stem cell fate and differentiation in vivo. He was trained in the laboratories of Mike Murphy and Ruth Lehmann.

Tomoko Ohyama is a new PI in the Department of Biology at McGill University studying how sensory information is processed to elicit certain behaviors in Drosophila larvae. Tomoko trained in Hugo Bellen’s lab and at Janelia Farms.

SeYeon Chung is a new PI in the Department of Biological Sciences at Louisiana State University. SeYeon trained in the laboratories of Jeongbin Yim and Deborah Andrew and did collaborative work with Paul Adler. Her lab will focus on the cellular and molecular mechanisms of tissue morphogenesis.

Sherry Aw (Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, Agency for Science, Technology and Research was awarded a 2017 L’Oreal Women in Science National Fellowship. Aw was recognized for her use of Drosophila genetics, molecular biology, and imaging techniques to understand the pathological tremor associated with neurodegenerative diseases

Fly community news and events are featured regularly on Submissions (such as meeting announcements, awards, feature articles, and new Drosophila PI appointments) are welcome.

Reading Recommendations

The op-ed by David Bilder (UC Berkeley) on the occasion of the Nobel Prize to fly neuroscientists Hall, Rosbash, and Young was published in the New York Times and is a fun read, providing useful talking points for your non-science friends and family.

I also recommend reading the original Konopka and Benzer paper; it’s the beautiful study that began all of the Drosophila work on clock mutants and makes for a great genetics journal club paper.

The outreach piece titled “How to kill flies” by Thomas Merritt (Laurentian University), which went viral, got over 270K clicks. First published in The Conversation, it was subsequently picked up by the National Post, the Washington Post (who changed the title), the Weather Network and a series of online news services (e.g., Science Alert and Flipboard) that got it on Facebook. The piece also received some readership “bumps” from retweets from Canadian Science Minister Kirsty Duncan, the GSA, and the Nobel Prize going to fly researchers.

See the CNN story on how the Undiagnosed Diseases Network first identified mutations in a calcium channel as causal for a rare neurological disorder in children. Analysis of the mutant variants in Drosophila indicated that the most severe defect was likely from a gain-of-function mutation, resulting in a complete switch in the treatment for the affected child.

Sam Illingworth and Andreas Prokop have edited a special issue on science communication in Seminars in Cell and Developmental Biology, which focuses on the following themes: long-term vision, collaboration, and formation of scientific communication networks. See the piece Andreas has written on Advocacy for Developmental Biology, which was posted by the British Society for Developmental Biology.

David Bilder and Ken Irvine have published a 2017 GENETICS paper on the strengths of Drosophila and available research tools, which is based on an HHMI-supported meeting of Drosophila experts held at Janelia Farms in February 2016. This publication should serve as a useful reference for grants and/or publications that require justification for the use of Drosophila.

photo fo book cover Drosophila Cells in Culture, Second Edition

Drosophila Cells in Culture, Second Editionby Guy Echalier, Norbert Perrimon, and Stephanie Mohris a comprehensive coverage of existing Drosophila cell lines that also includes methods for creating cell lines, methods for genome editing, and how to use cell lines for genome-wide RNAi screens. This book should be helpful to investigators at multiple career stages studying developmental biology, genetics, neuroscience, or biochemistry. The author of the first edition and first author of this second edition of this book – Guy Echalier – died in 2017 (he was in his 90s) after enthusiastically contributing to the second edition (despite several visits to the hospital).

photo fo book cover Deep Homology – Uncanny Similarities of Humans and Flies

Deep Homology – Uncanny Similarities of Humans and Flies Uncovered by Evo-Devo by Lewis Held (Texas Tech University), published in 2017, compares the genetics and development of humans and flies in a variety of different organs to review evidence of “deep homology,” a term used for instances where growth and differentiation are controlled by homologous and deeply conserved genetic mechanisms across a wide range of species

photo fo book cover First in Fly: Drosophila Research and Biological Discovery

First in Fly: Drosophila Research and Biological Discoveryby Stephanie Mohr (Harvard) will be in bookstores February 2018. A review by George Church (Harvard) states that Mohr “transforms vague public awareness of Drosophila into a breathtaking landscape of research, building a case for pure science as the source of most scientific surprises, revolutions, and ultimately, practical applications.” I was given the “uncorrected page proofs,” which I found to be a delightful read. Stephanie did an outstanding job of making the science both exciting and highly accessible.

Note from the GSA Executive Director

photo of Tracey DePellegrin

Tracey DePellegrin
Executive Director

Meet The People Who Make The Fly Meeting Happen

I have attended the Annual Drosophila Research Conference for many years as Executive Editor of the GSA Journals. But now that I've taken on a broader GSA role, I’ve come to appreciate the meeting—and what it takes to make it successful—on a whole new level. I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce you to some of the folks working hard behind the scenes to bring the fly community together every year!

Science: Fly Board & Organizing Committee

In addition to their work as advocates for the Drosophila community, the Drosophila Board drives the Conference's intellectual direction. The Fly Board President appoints the Conference Chair, who then forms the Scientific Organizing Committee. The organizers develop the scientific program and recruit session chairs to help review the nearly 1,000 abstracts submitted each year. They also help co-ordinate invited sessions, special programs, and new meeting initiatives. Be sure to thank them for their hard work!

2018 ADRC Scientific Organizing Committee

photo of Tin Tin Su

Tin Tin Su

photo of Gio Bosco

Gio Bosco

photo of Pamela Geyer

Pamela Geyer

photo of Noah K. Whiteman

Noah K. Whiteman

Image Award

photo of Nasser Rusan

Nasser Rusan

Sandler Award

photo of Kim McCall

Kim McCall

Finnerty Award

photo of Alexis Nagengast

Alexis Nagengast


Logistics & Professional Development: Genetics Society Of America

GSA partners with the Drosophila Board and Conference Organizers to enhance the meeting and handle logistics. GSA staff work with organizers and community members to create professional development programming, such as the ever popular “Getting Published” workshops, as well as new initiatives like poster viewer invitations. GSA also manages the logistics, including booking and coordinating the venue, accommodation, food, and audio/visual, co-ordinating exhibits, creating the website, developing the IT infrastructure for registration and abstract submission, providing meeting insurance, meeting design and communications, promotion, as well as overall project management. We hope you’ll say hello to the friendly GSA team at the Conference. They serve your community all year, and they love suggestions!

Suzy Brown, Senior Meetings Director
photo of Suzy Brown

Suzy has worked on the Annual Drosophila Research Conference since 2005. A thirty-year society/association veteran, she coordinates, negotiates, and implements all aspects of the conference, from registration and abstract submission to working with outside suppliers. Responsible for all logistics, Suzy's goal is to provide the organizers and community with the ideal environment for collaboration and the freedom to focus on the most important meeting component—the research, knowing that the other details are under control.

Sonia Hall, Director Of Engagement And Development
photo of Sonia Hall

Many of you already know Sonia as a member of the fly community, an energetic organizer, science advocate, and former Trainee Representative to the GSA Board of Directors. But did you know she has extensive experience facilitating professional development programs? She is the driving force behind GSA’s successful Early Career Scientist Leadership and Professional Development Program and also developed the popular GENETICS Peer Review Training Program. She has helped create a new suite of programs to foster community and enhance the conference experience. Some of the programs ready for rollout at #DROS18 include:

  • GENETICS Peer Review Workshop
  • Community, Connections, & Lunch
  • Poster viewer invitations
  • Professional Development Workshop
  • Education platform session
GSA Staff
photo of Mary Adams

Mary Adams

photo of Sarah Bay

Sarah Bay, PhD
Journals Assistant Editor & GSA Programs Manager

photo of Cristy Gelling

Cristy Gelling, PhD
Communications Director

photo of Ruth Isaacson

Ruth Isaacson
Managing Editor

photo of Anne Marie Mahoney

Anne Marie Mahoney
Senior Meetings Director

photo of Mary Van Tyne

Mary Van Tyne
Administrative Assistant

photo of Hongqiang (Hubert) Zhang

Hongqiang (Hubert) Zhang
IT Manager

photo of Drew Elias

Drew Elias
Web Designer

The Allied Genetics Conference Returns 2020

Plans aren’t finalized yet, but be on the lookout for an announcement soon about The Allied Genetics Conference 2020!

Tracey DePellegrin
Executive Director
Genetics Society of America