Scripps Florida Logo

Welcome to the The Ja Lab

Research image

Research Focus

Over a century of research on the fruit fly has resulted in profound discoveries in basic cellular processes, and has enabled the use of Drosophila as a model for human disease and drug discovery.  Our laboratory uses diverse tools in chemistry and biology to dissect genetic pathways and neural circuitry involved in aging, behavior, and disease.  We are currently involved in several projects including:

1.  Interactions of symbiotic microorganisms with Drosophila  Fly-associated microbes can promote host longevity and development.  Using the powerful genetic tools available for manipulating Drosophila, we are investigating the molecular mechanisms required for maintaining relationships between the fly microbiome, nutrition, and host physiology and health.

2.  Aging and nutrition We have identified genes that modify lifespan in response to environmental cues, including temperature and nutrient availability.  The mechanistic analysis of these genetic pathways includes application of large-scale methods (metabolomics, lipidomics) and gene expression studies on Drosophila mutants.  We are also investigating small molecule-modulators of mitochondrial function in cell culture models of aging.

3.  Drosophila feeding behavior The analysis of hunger, satiety, and the timing of meals has been neglected, despite the possible role played by prandial habits in obesity, hypercholesterolemia, and diabetes.  We are 1) developing simple tools for measuring short- and long-term food consumption in flies and 2) characterizing genetic and neural manipulations that affect feeding behavior.  This work will provide a better understanding of the central mechanisms that underlie appetite and feeding behavior at the genetic and neuronal levels.

4.  Interaction between feeding and sleep

Eating and sleeping are fundamental behaviors that are critical to survival. Increasing evidence suggests that the processes regulating these behaviors are linked. We have developed the Activity Recording CAFE (ARC) for assessing both food intake and sleep in individually housed adult flies (Murphy et al., Nat. Protoc. 2017). With the ARC, we are dissecting the sleep-feeding axis in Drosophila and have identified mechanisms that regulate postprandial sleep (Murphy et al., eLife 2016).

The ARC provides a simple, inexpensive, and customizable platform for studying animal behavior using webcams and 3-D printed chambers. For questions on adapting the ARC for your studies, please don’t hesitate to contact us or refer to the FAQ.  



Lab Members