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What a Knockout!

July 9, 2010

Rheanna Sand

She's cute. She's single. But she won't respond to your repeated attempts to mount, and she completely ignores your urine scent. What gives?

According to a new BMC Genetics paper from a group of Korean researchers, she might just be saying, "FucM." She, in this case, being a lab mouse.

Yes, when knocked out, the hilariously appropriate gene FucM (which codes for an enzyme called fucose mutarotase) creates females who won't respond to sexual signals from males. Not only that, but females who attempt to mount other females. In other words, FucM knockouts are lesbians.

In their BMC paper, Chankyu Park and colleagues investigate the role of fucose mutarotase in mammals, since it had been previously characterized in bacteria through a gene called FucU. Yeah, you heard me.

FucU is responsible for taking fucose, a six-carbon deoxy sugar, from salvaged cellular debris and incorporating it into proteins. In mammalians, FucM is suspected to play a role in creating alpha fetoproteins, which are present in high amounts in the fetal brain and regulate the sexual hormone estradiol in developing female mice.

The authors speculate that the removal of the FucM enzyme decreases the amount of estradiol in the developing brain and creates an essentially male pre-optic area in these knockout mice, leaving them completely fertile but unwilling to submit to male advances.

The FucM knockouts also showed a preference for plaid over floral patterns, could operate power tools with high efficiency, and developed a lasting obsession for Kate Moennig.

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Science in Seconds Blog by Rheanna Sand

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