Send to

Choose Destination
Environ Health Perspect. 2016 Jul;124(7):1062-70. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1510513. Epub 2016 Feb 9.

The Genetic Basis for Variation in Sensitivity to Lead Toxicity in Drosophila melanogaster.

Author information

W.M. Keck Center for Behavioral Biology, Program in Genetics, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA.



Lead toxicity presents a worldwide health problem, especially due to its adverse effects on cognitive development in children. However, identifying genes that give rise to individual variation in susceptibility to lead toxicity is challenging in human populations.


Our goal was to use Drosophila melanogaster to identify evolutionarily conserved candidate genes associated with individual variation in susceptibility to lead exposure.


To identify candidate genes associated with variation in susceptibility to lead toxicity, we measured effects of lead exposure on development time, viability and adult activity in the Drosophila melanogaster Genetic Reference Panel (DGRP) and performed genome-wide association analyses to identify candidate genes. We used mutants to assess functional causality of candidate genes and constructed a genetic network associated with variation in sensitivity to lead exposure, on which we could superimpose human orthologs.


We found substantial heritabilities for all three traits and identified candidate genes associated with variation in susceptibility to lead exposure for each phenotype. The genetic architectures that determine variation in sensitivity to lead exposure are highly polygenic. Gene ontology and network analyses showed enrichment of genes associated with early development and function of the nervous system.


Drosophila melanogaster presents an advantageous model to study the genetic underpinnings of variation in susceptibility to lead toxicity. Evolutionary conservation of cellular pathways that respond to toxic exposure allows predictions regarding orthologous genes and pathways across phyla. Thus, studies in the D. melanogaster model system can identify candidate susceptibility genes to guide subsequent studies in human populations.


Zhou S, Morozova TV, Hussain YN, Luoma SE, McCoy L, Yamamoto A, Mackay TF, Anholt RR. 2016. The genetic basis for variation in sensitivity to lead toxicity in Drosophila melanogaster. Environ Health Perspect 124:1062-1070;

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Atypon Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center