Drosophila melanogaster: A Valuable Genetic Model Organism to Elucidate the Biology of Retinitis Pigmentosa

  • Malte Lehmann
  • Elisabeth KnustEmail author
  • Sarita HebbarEmail author
Part of the Methods in Molecular Biology book series (MIMB, volume 1834)


Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is a complex inherited disease. It is associated with mutations in a wide variety of genes with many different functions. These mutations impact the integrity of rod photoreceptors and ultimately result in the progressive degeneration of rods and cone photoreceptors in the retina, leading to complete blindness. A hallmark of this disease is the variable degree to which symptoms are manifest in patients. This is indicative of the influence of the environment, and/or of the distinct genetic makeup of the individual.

The fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, has effectively proven to be a great model system to better understand interconnected genetic networks. Unraveling genetic interactions and thereby different cellular processes is relatively easy because more than a century of research on flies has enabled the creation of sophisticated genetic tools to perturb gene function. A remarkable conservation of disease genes across evolution and the similarity of the general organization of the fly and vertebrate photoreceptor cell had prompted research on fly retinal degeneration. To date six fly models for RP, including RP4, RP11, RP12, RP14, RP25, and RP26, have been established, and have provided useful information on RP disease biology. In this chapter, an outline of approaches and experimental specifications are described to enable utilizing or developing new fly models of RP.

Key words

Retinal disease Drosophila melanogaster Genetics Cellular pathways 



We would like to thank the members of the Knust Lab for fruitful and constant discussions and Julia Eichhorn for help with Fig. 1. Work in the authors’ lab was supported by the Max Planck Society.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Max-Planck-Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and GeneticsDresdenGermany

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