In this study we have examined the roles of alcohol dehydrogenase, aldehyde oxidase, and aldehyde dehydrogenase in the adaptation of Drosophila melanogaster to alcohol environments. Fifteen strains were characterized for genetic variation at the above loci by protein electrophoresis. Levels of in vitro enzyme activity were also determined. The strains examined showed considerable variation in enzyme activity for all three gene-enzyme systems. Each enzyme was also characterized for coenzyme requirements, effect of inhibitors, subcellular location, and tissue specific expression. A subset of the strains was chosen to assess the physiological role of each gene-enzyme system in alcohol and aldehyde metabolism. These strains were characterized for both the ability to utilize alcohols and aldehydes as carbon sources as well as the capacity to detoxify such substrates. The results of the above analyses demonstrate the importance of both alcohol dehydrogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase in the in vivo metabolism of alcohols and aldehydes.