Gene Expression Patterns, July 2008
The fight against cane toads has been waged since shortly after their introduction to the Australian continent in 1935. Many different strategies have been tried to limit population growth, but none deterred the poisonous toads’ invasion. New research led by Damian Halliday et al., however, attempts to find a weakness in the toad’s life cycle by examining changes in toad gene expression during metamorphosis.
Funded by the Australian Government’s Department of Environment and Heritage, the study identified changes in gene expression that occur during the somewhat miraculous metamorphosis from tadpole to toad. Transformations such as changing hemoglobin structures and creation of different digestive enzymes are known to occur between the stages. Halliday et al. were able to isolate the specific genes used in these transitions through the use of microarray analysis of toad DNA. Pending further research, the authors hope to find a method of preventing these genes from being expressed, inhibiting metamorphosis and thus eliminating the toad problem.