In the Warr lab we are interested in how cells receive and respond to signals from the environment (such as in olfaction) or from each other (such as during development).
We use Drosophila melanogaster as a model organism due to the sophisticated genetic and molecular approaches available to study gene function and expression.
All honours students in Coral’s lab gain experience in a range of widely applicable molecular biology, protein, and genetic techniques such as: PCR, cloning, RNA in situ hybridisation, immunohistochemistry, reporter genes, RNA interference, as well as in Drosophila breeding experiments and production of transgenic Drosophila.
Olfaction is a fascinating sense as animals can detect and discriminate amongst literally thousands of different chemical compounds.
How can this be achieved at the molecular level? As well as being of fundamental interest, there are also applied aspects to this research in pest control and in the development of olfactory biosensors. In insects odorants are initially detected in olfactory receptor neurons by a large family of odorant receptor proteins, however there are many unsolved questions as to how these receptors bind odorants and signal.
Several possible projects are available based on student interests, for example characterization of new olfactory genes that affect signaling that we have identified, or studying natural variation in odorant receptor genes and the evolution of olfaction in different Drosophila populations and species. 17 CW-2: MACPF (Membrane Attack Complex/Perforin-like) gene function in Drosophila development Co-supervised by Dr Travis Johnson Feb 2015 or July 2015 start The Drosophila torso-like gene (tsl) is the only fly member of the Membrane Attack Complex / Perforin-like (MACPF) protein superfamily, which includes pore forming toxins that play key roles in vertebrate immunity.
Some MACPF proteins are essential for developmental processes, and interestingly we have shown that Tsl has both developmental and immune roles. The tsl gene is needed for correct terminal patterning in the Drosophila embryo and acts upstream of the Torso receptor tyrosine kinase. tsl also has other roles in Drosophila, as we have shown that it is expressed in the embryo, larvae and adult in a number of tissues, and also functions in developmental timing and in immunity. However, the mechanism of action of Tsl in these processes is not well understood. Several possible projects are possible aimed at characterising the functions of torso-like in Drosophila development or immunity.