Genetics and genomics of alcohol responses in Drosophila

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Abstract

Drosophila melanogaster has become a significant model organism for alcohol research. In flies, a rich variety of behaviors can be leveraged for identifying genes affecting alcohol responses and adaptations. Furthermore, almost all genes can be easily genetically manipulated. Despite the great evolutionary distance between flies and mammals, many of the same genes have been implicated in strikingly similar alcohol-induced behaviors. A major problem in medical research today is that it is difficult to extrapolate from any single model system to humans. Strong evolutionary conservation of a mechanistic response between distantly related organisms, such as flies and mammals, is a powerful predictor that conservation will continue all the way to humans. This review describes the state of the Drosophila alcohol research field. It describes common alcohol behavioral assays, the independent origins of resistance and tolerance, the results of classical genetic screens and candidate gene analysis, and the outcomes of recent genomics studies employing GWAS, transcriptome, miRNA, and genome-wide histone acetylation surveys.

This article is part of the Special Issue entitled “Alcoholism”.

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