Why do we study the Drosophila heat shock genes as one of our major model systems? Heat shock genes are good models to study transcription and its activation because:

  • Robust activation: transcript levels are 100x greater when activated than in the unactivated state
  • Rapid response: transcription activation occurs within tens of seconds after the initial temperature shift
  • Synchronous activation: allows for kinetic analysis of the transcription cycle and the ability to mechanistically order the activity of specific factors
  • Well-defined system: we have been studying this system for over 3 decades and know what to expect when developing new methods
  • Generalizable: the principles and underlying mechanisms are proving to be applicable to other systems
  • Natural amplification: Drosophila polytene chromosomes are extended and aligned interphase chromosomes providing both sensitivity and resolution to analyze the recruitment and dynamics of factors at specific loci