Fruit flies and intellectual disability

Fly (Austin). 2009 Jan-Mar;3(1):91-104. doi: 10.4161/fly.3.1.7812. Epub 2009 Jan 12.


Mental retardation--known more commonly nowadays as intellectual disability--is a severe neurological condition affecting up to 3% of the general population. As a result of the analysis of familial cases and recent advances in clinical genetic testing, great strides have been made in our understanding of the genetic etiologies of mental retardation. Nonetheless, no treatment is currently clinically available to patients suffering from intellectual disability. Several animal models have been used in the study of memory and cognition. Established paradigms in Drosophila have recently captured cognitive defects in fly mutants for orthologs of genes involved in human intellectual disability. We review here three protocols designed to understand the molecular genetic basis of learning and memory in Drosophila and the genes identified so far with relation to mental retardation. In addition, we explore the mental retardation genes for which evidence of neuronal dysfunction other than memory has been established in Drosophila. Finally, we summarize the findings in Drosophila for mental retardation genes for which no neuronal information is yet available. All in all, this review illustrates the impressive overlap between genes identified in human mental retardation and genes involved in physiological learning and memory.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Drosophila / genetics*
  • Drosophila / physiology*
  • Female
  • Genes, Insect
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability / genetics*
  • Learning
  • Male
  • Memory
  • Models, Animal
  • Models, Psychological
  • Mutation
  • Phenotype
  • Species Specificity