The recent completion of the Drosophila genome sequence opens new avenues for neurobiology research. We screened the fly genome sequence for homologs of mammalian genes implicated directly or indirectly in exocytosis and endocytosis of synaptic vesicles. We identified fly homologs for 93% of the vertebrate genes that were screened. These are on average 60% identical and 74% similar to their vertebrate counterparts. This high degree of conservation suggests that little protein diversification has been tolerated in the evolution of synaptic transmission. Finally, and perhaps most exciting for Drosophila neurobiologists, the genomic sequence allows us to identify P element transposon insertions in or near genes, thereby allowing rapid isolation of mutations in genes of interest. Analysis of the phenotypes of these mutants should accelerate our understanding of the role of numerous proteins implicated in synaptic transmission.
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