"When you expose flies to alcohol, they go through the tube at a rate more or less determined by their genetic background," Mackay said.
By mating the most extreme lightweights with other extreme lightweights for 25 generations and mating extreme lushes with other extreme lushes for 25 generations, the researchers created both "lightweight" flies that needed just a minute or two of exposure to fall to the bottom of the inebriometer and fly "lushes" that finally reached the tube's bottom after a "bender" of about 18 minutes.
More than 1,500 genes changed in testing, the study showed. Tests of 35 especially promising candidate genes showed 32 genes affecting alcohol sensitivity. Seventy-two percent of these 32 genes have human counterparts, the researchers said.
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, the researchers added.
Finding relevant genes, Mackay says, could some day lead to devising a drug for people with higher genetic risk factors for alcoholism.
|Contact: Trudy Mackay|
North Carolina State University