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Title: The effect of static electric fields on Drosophila behaviour
Author: Al Ghamdi, Mesfer S.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2741 2750
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2012
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Electric fields are present in the environment and generated from natural sources, such as a thunderstorm or artificially from electrical devices and transmission lines. The electric field is defined as the space surrounding an electric charge, which exerts forces on other charged objects. In recent years, the existence of artificial electric and magnetic fields (EM F) in the environment has provoked concern regarding potential adverse effects on public health, including childhood leukaemia, brain tumours and cardiovascular diseases. Establishing experimental procedures to investigate causal relationships in a human system is fraught with difficulties. Invertebrate model systems are often used as an alternative for basic research. Drosophila melanogaster is one such system. Previous studies have shown that exposure of insects to static and alternating electric fields induces changes in their behaviour in relation to field strength. Unfortunately, the majority of these publications are not comprehensive (focused on either behaviour or harmful effects) and tend to be on invertebrates that are not established model systems. The present study focused on developing a thorough quantitative analysis of the interactions between static electric fields and Drosophila melanogaster. Firstly, this required developing novel bioassay procedures to measure detection and avoidance behaviour to static electric fields, detailed mapping of electric fields in the apparatus and investigating the potential mechanisms of detection. Secondly, to establish a suitable bioassay procedure to test whether the exposure of Drosophila to static electric field leads to harmful effects, by measuring knockdown and mortality. Most of the previously published research investigated the EMF component which included both electric and magnetic fields. Thus, it is difficult to separate and identify the individual effect of each of them as they are usually emitted together (for example, AC power lines). In this study, only the static electric field was used in order to identify its effects. The results showed that D. melanogaster, in a novel Y-tube bioassay avoided static electric fields, after applying 0.5 kV as threshold level (corresponding to a modeled electric field strength of 26-34 kV/m). As the applied voltage increased from lkV to 3kV so did the level of avoidance. Wing movement caused by electrical field forces were associated with avoidance. This became clear when vestigial winged mutants and wild-type flies with cut wings were exposed to these fields. They exhibited avoidance behaviour only when the highest voltage potentials (2 kV and 3 kV) were applied. In addition, the field strength required to raise the intact and excised wing in females was greater than in males due to the bigger size of the female wing. It was found that the field strength required to raise the intact wings in live and dead male flies was similar, indicating that movement of the wing in response to a static electric field is uncontrolled even with live flies. It is postulated that the electric field imposes physical forces on the wings due to polarization between opposite charges, causing wing movement and ultimately inducing a change in behaviour. To assess the harmful effects of longer term exposure (up to 168 hours), a novel vertical tube design was developed. There was a significant relationship between field strengths and mortality with a (lethal time) LT 50 value of 6.48 h in males and 13.02 h in females with field strengths between 89- 100 kV Im. The results showed that Drosophila mortality occurred at higher field strength than those that induced avoidance behaviour. This research provides new results and experimental designs to underpin future research using Drosophila as a model system to understand the other possible effects of sublethal static electric fields, such as the induction of stress proteins. Although not the remit of this thesis, the results also provide evidence for the potential ecological effects of static electric fields on organisms in the environment.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available