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Geek Genes

Many researchers may be counted among the legions of science fiction and comic book fans, and a few have even drawn on that fandom to name genes they've discovered, says Robert Gonzalez at the i09 blog. In particular, he adds, the Drosophila melanogaster genome is "most heavily populated" with genes named for fantasy characters. There's the Indy gene, an acronym for "I'm not dead yet." The gene is names for the line from the "Bring Our Yer Dead" sketch in Monty Python and the Holy Grail , and flies with a mutated Indy live twice as long as normal flies. There's the Yuri gene, named for Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. Flies with mutations in this gene "exhibit strange walking behavior in response to gravity," Gonzalez says. There's also the Smaug gene, named for the dragon in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. Smaug inhibits the activity of a gene named nanos, which is Greek for dwarf — in the book, the dragon drove the Dwarves away from their home. You'll also find Thor and the Matrix's Neo lurking around in the Drosophila genome, Gonzalez says. And for the Star Trek fans, there's Tribbles, a gene named for its mutated version's ability to divide uncontrollably.

HT: OpenHelix