Mutagenicity Testing with Drosophila Melanogaster

  • F. E. Würgler
  • U. Graf
Part of the Basic Life Sciences book series


The fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, is the eukaryote most often used to detect mutations in germ cells. There are several facts which make this insect an attractive test system for screening chemical compounds for mutagenic activity. The short generation time of only 10 days, low cost of culture media, easy breeding of large numbers of animals with simple facilities, and a. large number of well-defined genetic tests for various types of mutations are the principal advantages of Drosophila. Mutation research with Drosophila began in 1927 when H. J. Muller (1927) discovered that X-rays induce sex-linked recessive lethals. Particularly in the years after World War II, the field of radiation genetics profited a lot from studies with Drosophila (Sankaranarayanan and Sobels, 1976). Using the test for sex-linked recessive lethals, Charlotte Auerbach detected the first chemical mutagens (Auerbach and Robson, 1947). Chemicals were used for many years to induce changes in the genetic material, to get new information about either the chemical nature of the genetic material or the molecular organization of chromosomes. Already in the late forties, attempts were started to test chemical carcinogens for mutagenic activity (Demerec, 1948). Since that time a considerable number of chemicals, known carcinogens and known non-carcinogens among others, were tested for mutagenicity in Drosophila. Internationally accepted standard testing protocols were developed and used for routine screening. Attempts to validate the Drosophila tests were undertaken. Within the Gene-Tox Program (Green and Auletta, 1980), the world literature was critically analyzed on the experimental results obtained from the sex-linked recessive lethals test (Lee et al., 1983) and the chromosome mutation tests with Drosophila (Valencia et al., 1984), Experimental validation was attempted within the International Collaborative Program (de Serres and Ashby, 1981) and is continued within the International Program on Chemical Safety coordinated by the World Health Organization. Drosophila tests also represent an integral part of the mutagenicity testing program within the U.S. National Toxicology Program (National Toxicology Program, 1982).


Mutation Frequency Imaginal Disc Chemical Mutagen Methyl Methanesulfonate National Toxicology Program 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • F. E. Würgler
    • 1
  • U. Graf
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of ToxicologySwiss Federal Institute of Technology and University of ZürichSchwerzenbach near ZürichSwitzerland

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