Susceptibility to drug addiction depends on genetic and environmental factors and their complex interactions. Studies with mammalian models have identified molecular targets, neurochemical systems, and brain regions that mediate some of the addictive properties of abused drugs. Yet, our understanding of how the primary effects of drugs lead to addiction remains incomplete. Recently, researchers have turned to the invertebrate model systems Drosophila melanogaster and Caenorhabditis elegans to dissect the mechanisms by which abused drugs modulate behavior. Due to their sophisticated genetics, relatively simple anatomy, and their remarkable molecular similarity to mammals, these invertebrate models should provide useful insights into the mechanisms of drug action. Here we review recent behavioral and genetic studies in flies and worms on the effects of ethanol, cocaine, and nicotine, three of the most widely abused drugs in the world.
Copyright 2003 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.