The malvolio (mvl) gene of Drosophila melanogaster encodes a protein with a high degree of homology to natural resistance-associated macrophage proteins (Nramps). This family of integral membrane proteins, many of which appear to function as cation transporters, is remarkably conserved in several phylogenetically distinct species. In Drosophila melanogaster, the protein Mvl is expressed in macrophages and in differentiated neurons; loss-of-function mutations lead to defects in gustatory behaviour. The human Nramp-1 protein was expressed in Drosophila melanogaster using the hsp70 promoter. Overexpression in normal animals does not lead to any alterations in their behaviour or physiology. In mutants, however, ubiquitous expression of human Nramp-1 can totally rescue the taste defect. This finding that Nramp-1 can complement the taste defect in mvl mutants provides a potent means of exploiting behavioural genetics to dissect the function of Nramp-1 and to identify other molecules involved with this transport system.

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