• Behavior;
  • Drosophila;
  • geotaxis;
  • graviperception;
  • gravitaxis;
  • mechanosensation;
  • neural architecture;
  • peripheral sense organs

Perception of the earth's gravitational force is essential for most forms of animal life. However, little is known of the molecular mechanisms and neuronal circuitry underlying gravitational responses. A forward genetic screen using Drosophila melanogaster that provides insight into these characteristics is described here. Vertical choice mazes combined with additional behavioral assays were used to identify mutants specifically affected in gravitaxic responses. Twenty-three mutants were selected for molecular analysis. As a result, 18 candidate genes are now implicated in the gravitaxic behavior of flies. Many of these genes have orthologs across the animal kingdom, while some are more specific to Drosophila and invertebrates. One gene (yuri) located close to a known locus for gravitaxis has been the subject of more extensive analysis including confirmation by transgenic rescue.