A Drosophila model for alcohol reward

Nat Neurosci. 2011 May;14(5):612-9. doi: 10.1038/nn.2805. Epub 2011 Apr 17.


The rewarding properties of drugs contribute to the development of abuse and addiction. We developed a new assay for investigating the motivational properties of ethanol in the genetically tractable model Drosophila melanogaster. Flies learned to associate cues with ethanol intoxication and, although transiently aversive, the experience led to a long-lasting attraction for the ethanol-paired cue, implying that intoxication is rewarding. Temporally blocking transmission in dopaminergic neurons revealed that flies require activation of these neurons to express, but not develop, conditioned preference for ethanol-associated cues. Moreover, flies acquired, consolidated and retrieved these rewarding memories using distinct sets of neurons in the mushroom body. Finally, mutations in scabrous, encoding a fibrinogen-related peptide that regulates Notch signaling, disrupted the formation of memories for ethanol reward. Our results thus establish that Drosophila can be useful for understanding the molecular, genetic and neural mechanisms underling the rewarding properties of ethanol.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol-Related Disorders / pathology
  • Alcohol-Related Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Alcohols / adverse effects*
  • Alcohols / metabolism
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid / methods
  • Conditioning, Psychological / drug effects
  • Conditioning, Psychological / physiology*
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Dopamine / pharmacology
  • Drosophila
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Electric Stimulation / adverse effects
  • Ethanol / pharmacology
  • Food Preferences / drug effects
  • Food Preferences / psychology
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / genetics
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / drug effects
  • Maze Learning / physiology
  • Mushroom Bodies / metabolism
  • Mushroom Bodies / pathology
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Odorants
  • Reward*
  • Synaptic Transmission / drug effects
  • Synaptic Transmission / genetics
  • Time Factors
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / metabolism


  • Alcohols
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Ethanol
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase
  • Dopamine