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BACKGROUND: Urolithiasis is a significant healthcare issue but the pathophysiology of stone disease remains poorly understood. Drosophila Malpighian tubules were known to share similar physiological function to human renal tubules. We have used Drosophila as a genetic model to study the transcriptional response to stone formation secondary to dietary manipulation. METHODS: Wild-type male flies were raised on standard medium supplemented with lithogenic agents: control, sodium oxalate (NaOx) and ethylene glycol (EG). At 2 weeks, Malpighian tubules were dissected under polarized microscope to visualize crystals. The parallel group was dissected for RNA extraction and subsequent next-generation RNA sequencing. RESULTS: Crystal formation was visualized in 20%(±2.2) of flies on control diet, 73%(±3.6) on NaOx diet and 84%(±2.2) on EG diet. Differentially expressed genes were identified in flies fed with NaOx and EG diet comparing with the control group. Fifty-eight genes were differentially expressed (FDR <0.05, p < 0.05) in NaOx diet and 20 genes in EG diet. The molecular function of differentially expressed genes were assessed. Among these, Nervana 3, Eaat1 (Excitatory amino acid transporter 1), CG7912, CG5404, CG3036 worked as ion transmembrane transporters, which were possibly involved in stone pathogenesis. CONCLUSIONS: We have shown that by dietary modification, stone formation can be manipulated and visualized in Drosophila Malpighian tubules. This genetic model could be potentially used to identify the candidate genes that influence stone risk hence providing more insight to the pathogenesis of human stone disease.

Original publication




Journal article


BMC Urol

Publication Date





Animals, Diet, Drosophila, Male, Malpighian Tubules, Models, Genetic, Nephrolithiasis, Oxalic Acid, Transcription, Genetic