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Lush or lightweight?
Date:10/31/2007

Some fruit flies can drink others under the table.

Now, scientists at North Carolina State University have a few more genetic clues behind why some flies are more sensitive to alcohol than others. And the results might lead to more knowledge about alcoholism in humans.

After genetically modifying fruit flies to be either extremely sensitive or extremely resistant to alcohol lightweights or lushes the NC State scientists found that a number of fruit fly genes undergo changes when sensitivity to alcohol changes.

A number of these genes, the researchers report, are similar to genes found in humans, suggesting that they may be good targets to study human predisposal to alcoholism.

The research is published in the November edition of Genome Biology, which is available online at http://genomebiology.com.

The research team Dr. Tatiana Morozova, a post-doctoral researcher in zoology; Dr. Trudy Mackay, William Neal Reynolds Professor of Genetics; and Dr. Robert Anholt, professor of zoology and genetics used a unique approach in the study.

Rather than examining gene changes after exposure to alcohol and the development of tolerance to it, the NC State study first artificially selected flies for alcohol sensitivity creating the lushes and the lightweights and then, in a "whole-genome" approach, examined the entire genome, or set of all genes, to find genes that had consistent changes in expression as a response to the artificial selection.

"We wanted to find the genetic factors that changed when flies became more sensitive or more resistant to alcohol, knowing that genes that undergo changes are potential candidate genes for mediating sensitivity," Anholt said.

In the study, flies were exposed to alcohol vapors in a so-called inebriometer, a long vertical tube filled with a number of slanted platforms onto which the flies can cling. As flies became inebriat
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Contact: Trudy Mackay
trudy_mackay@ncsu.edu
919-515-5810
North Carolina State University
Source:Eurekalert

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