Speculations on the subject of alcohol dehydrogenase and its properties in Drosophila and other flies

Bioessays. 1998 Nov;20(11):949-54. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1521-1878(199811)20:11<949::AID-BIES10>3.0.CO;2-0.


The alcohol dehydrogenases (ADH) and their genes (Adh) of Drosophila have been much studied by population and evolutionary biologists. I attempt to put some of these studies into a broad adaptionist perspective, suggesting the co-evolution of this enzyme with the fleshy fruits of angiosperms and fermenting yeasts. I suggest that these events occurred at about the K/T boundary (65 million years ago) and that the typical Drosophila (as exemplified by D. melanogaster) evolved from flies unable to use fermenting substrates as breeding sites. I also hint that the ADH enzymes of other flies (e.g., the tephritid fruit flies) may have evolved independently of those of Drosophila, but from a common ancestral gene.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Dehydrogenase / genetics*
  • Alcohol Dehydrogenase / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Diptera / enzymology
  • Diptera / genetics*
  • Drosophila / enzymology*
  • Drosophila / genetics*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / enzymology
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / enzymology
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics


  • Alcohol Dehydrogenase