Jeffrey C. Hall
Election Year: 2003
Primary Section: 26, Genetics
Secondary Section: 24, Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
Membership Type: Member
I and co-workers have studied behavior in Drosophila from the perspective of genetically defined tissue substrates of the animal's actions, as well as how mutationally identified genes point to the cellular and molecular mechanisms subserving, on the one hand, reproductive behavior and, on the other, biological rhythmicity. Our courtship studies have included identifying portions of the central nervous system that must be genetically male or female in order that sex-specific behaviors occur; analysis of a key gene whose actions within these CNS regions are responsible for essentially all components of male-specific behavior; discovering that elements of Drosophila courtship involve learning and memory (followed by genetic analysis of these conditioned behaviors); performing the first foray into reverse-neurogenetics in this model system; neuro-molecular analysis of a putative "master regulator" of sexual differentiation in the CNS; and identification of genes encoding ion-channel proteins that regulate the fly's ability to generate courtship song sounds. Our discovery that a salient feature of singing behavior is rhythmic provided the entree into our broader-ranging investigations of biological rhythmicity. These studies have included (co)identification of the first "clock gene" isolated in any organism; uncovering how the products of this gene act to form a central component of the circadian-pacemaker mechanism; extending this chronogenetic story by mutationally and molecularly identifying an appreciable proportion of the other genes in Drosophila that function either "within" the clock, mediate daily clock-resetting environmental inputs to the system, or send outputs from central pacemaking into regulation of the animal's overt biological rhythms.