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It is a known fact that environmental variables dramatically affect the cellular structure of living organisms. That is why animals have developed coping mechanisms to deal with heat stress. For most, including humans, the typical response is to just avoid temperatures that are outside the genetic comfort zone. But what happens when the exposed organism cannot move or change its environment? That is the focus of a study by scientists at Indiana University. Dr. Lockwood and his colleagues are subjecting fruit fly embryos to what they term “heat shock”, which is essentially the temperature at which 50% of the embryos are lost. Fruit flies are being used because their cellular structure has been completely mapped and is fairly stable. Microscopic observation shows the cellular breakdown that occurs during heat shock, where proteins known as Actin and Tubulin, key to cellular structure, begin to degrade. As they come apart, the entire cellular structure breaks down, destroying the embryo. The question for researchers is how flies in the wild deal with such extremes. One theory is that mother flies in hotter pills store areas impart extra proteins that act to reinforce the embryo’s structure and repair breakdown. However, another explanation could be that natural selection favors flies that lay their eggs in cooler spots.
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