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Pharmacogenet Genomics. 2012 Apr;22(4):285-9. doi: 10.1097/FPC.0b013e3283514395.

Chemotherapy-induced toxicity is highly heritable in Drosophila melanogaster.

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  • 1Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of California, Irvine, California, USA.



Identification of the genes responsible for chemotherapy toxicity in Drosophila melanogaster may allow for the identification of human orthologs that similarly mediate toxicity in humans. To develop D. melanogaster as a model of dissecting chemotoxicity, we first need to develop standardized high-throughput toxicity assays and prove that the interindividual variation in toxicity as measured by such assays is highly heritable.


We developed a method for the oral delivery of commonly used chemotherapy drugs to Drosophila. Post-treatment female fecundity displayed a dose-dependent response to varying levels of the chemotherapy drug delivered. We fixed the dose for each drug at a level that resulted in a 50% reduction in fecundity and used a paternal half-sibling heritability design to calculate the heritability attributable to chemotherapy toxicity assayed by a decrease in female fecundity. The chemotherapy agents tested were carboplatin, floxuridine, gemcitabine hydrochloride, methotrexate, mitomycin C, and topotecan hydrochloride.


We found that six currently widely prescribed chemotherapeutic agents lowered fecundity in D. melanogaster in both a dose-dependent and a highly heritable manner. The following heritability estimates were found: carboplatin, 0.72; floxuridine, 0.52; gemcitabine hydrochloride, 0.72; methotrexate, 0.99; mitomycin C, 0.64; and topotecan hydrochloride, 0.63.


The high heritability estimates observed in this study, irrespective of the particular class of drug examined, suggest that human toxicity may also have a sizable genetic component.

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