Contrasting Influences ofDrosophila white/mini-whiteon Ethanol Sensitivity in Two Different Behavioral Assays

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The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster has been used extensively to investigate genetic mechanisms of ethanol (EtOH)-related behaviors. Many past studies in flies, including studies from our laboratory, have manipulated gene expression using transposons carrying the genetic–phenotypic marker mini-white(mini-w), a derivative of the endogenous gene white(w). Whether the mini-w transgenic marker or the endogenous w gene influences behavioral responses to acute EtOH exposure in flies has not been systematically investigated.


We manipulated mini-w and w expression via (i) transposons marked with mini-w, (ii) RNAi against mini-w and w, and (iii) a null allele of w. We assessed EtOH sensitivity and tolerance using a previously described eRING assay (based on climbing in the presence of EtOH) and an assay based on EtOH-induced sedation.


In eRING assays, EtOH-induced impairment of climbing correlated inversely with expression of the mini-w marker from a series of transposon insertions. Additionally, flies harboring a null allele of w or flies with RNAi-mediated knockdown of mini-w were significantly more sensitive to EtOH in eRING assays than controls expressing endogenous w or the mini-w marker. In contrast, EtOH sensitivity and rapid tolerance measured in the EtOH sedation assay were not affected by decreased expression of mini-w or endogenous w in flies.


EtOH sensitivity measured in the eRING assay is noticeably influenced by w and mini-w, making eRING problematic for studies on EtOH-related behavior in Drosophila using transgenes marked with mini-w. In contrast, the EtOH sensitivity assay described here is a suitable behavioral paradigm for studies on EtOH sensitivity and rapid tolerance in Drosophila including those that use widely available transgenes marked with mini-w.

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