Genes behind alcohol sensitivity in fruit flies uncovered

November 14th, 2007 - 8:13 am ICT by admin  
The researchers say that the new finding may lead to better understanding of alcoholism in humans because 72 per cent of the fruit fly genes they have identified are similar to genes found in humans.

The findings are based on a study wherein the researchers genetically modified fruit flies to be either extremely sensitive or extremely resistant to alcohol, terming them ‘lightweights’ or ‘lushes’ respectively.

While the ‘lightweight’ flies needed just a minute of two of exposure to get inebriated, the ‘lushes’ took about 18 minutes for the same.

The researchers then examined the entire fruit fly genome to find genes that had consistent changes in expression as a response to the genetic modification.

“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,” said Dr. Robert Anholt, professor of zoology and genetics.

More than 1,500 genes changed in testing, and tests of 35 especially promising candidate genes showed 32 genes affecting alcohol sensitivity. Seventy-two per cent of these genes human counterparts, according to the researchers.

The researchers have revealed that some of these changed genes are involved in one of the metabolic pathways that converts alcohol into fat, and have not been previously studied for a correlation to alcohol sensitivity.

Dr. Trudy Mackay, William Neal Reynolds Professor of Genetics, says that finding relevant genes may some day lead to devising a drug for people with higher genetic risk factors for alcoholism.

The study, published in the November edition of Genome Biology, was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse. (ANI)

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