The genetics of behavioral alcohol responses in Drosophila

Int Rev Neurobiol. 2010;91:25-51. doi: 10.1016/S0074-7742(10)91002-7.


Drosophila melanogaster is commonly found near rotting or fermenting fruit, reflected in its name pomace, or vinegar fly. In such environments, flies often encounter significant levels of ethanol. Three observations have made Drosophila a very promising model organism to understand the genetic contributions to the behavioral responses to alcohol. First, similar to higher vertebrates, flies show hyperactivation upon exposure to a low to medium dose of alcohol, while high doses can lead to sedation. In addition, when given a choice, flies will actually prefer alcohol-containing food over regular food. Second, the genes and biochemical pathways implicated in controlling these behavioral responses in flies are also participating in determining alcohol responses, and drinking behavior in mammals. Third, the fact that flies have been studied genetically for over one hundred years means that an exceptional repertoire of genetic tools are at our disposal. Here, we will review some of these tools and experimental approaches, survey the methods for, and measures after Drosophila ethanol exposure, and discuss the different molecular components and functional pathways involved in these behavioral responses to alcohol.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / genetics
  • Alcohol Drinking / physiopathology
  • Alcoholism / genetics*
  • Alcoholism / physiopathology*
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / classification
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Drosophila
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation / genetics
  • Humans
  • Synaptic Transmission / drug effects
  • Synaptic Transmission / genetics


  • Ethanol