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Sex-Deprived Fruit Flies Turn to Alcohol

    Original title: Sex-Deprived Fruit Flies Turn to Alcohol, Perhaps to Fulfill a Physiological Demand for a Reward

    ScienceDaily (Mar. 15, 2012) — After being deprived of sex, male fruit flies, known as Drosophila melanogaster, may turn to alcohol to fulfill a physiological demand for a reward, according to a study recently published in the journal Science. Troy Zars, an associate professor of biological sciences at the University of Missouri and neurobiology expert, said that understanding why rejected male flies find solace in ethanol could help treat human addictions.

    "Identifying the molecular and genetic mechanisms controlling the demand for reward in fruit flies could potentially influence our understanding of drug and alcohol abuse in humans, since previous studies have detailed similarities between signaling pathways in fruit flies and mammals," Zars said.

    In the study, male fruit flies that had mated repeatedly for several days showed no preference for alcohol-spiked food. On the other hand, spurned males and those denied access to females strongly preferred food mixed with 15 percent alcohol. The researchers believed the alcohol may have satisfied the flies' desire for physical reward.

    Zars said the new discovery could lead to greater understanding of the relationship between the social and physical causes of substance abuse in humans.

    "The authors provide new insights into a neural circuit that links a rewarding social interaction with a lasting change in behavior preference," Zars said.

    Zars has been a faculty member at MU since 2002. He leads investigations of the molecular and systems level mechanisms of behavioral genetics in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. He is well known for his experiments identifying molecular mechanisms and neural circuits that support behaviors in the relatively simple fly brain. His work has been published in leading scientific journals such as Science, Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Current Biology, Learning and Memory, and Neuron.

    Story Source:

    The above story is reprinted from materials provided by University of Missouri-Columbia.
    Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

    Journal Reference:

    G. Shohat-Ophir, K. R. Kaun, R. Azanchi, U. Heberlein. Sexual Deprivation Increases Ethanol Intake in Drosophila. Science, 2012; 335 (6074): 1351 DOI: 10.1126/science.1215932



    Science 16 March 2012:
    335 no. 6074 pp. 1351-1355


    Sexual Deprivation Increases Ethanol Intake in Drosophila

    G. Shohat-Ophir 1,2,*, K. R. Kaun 1,2, R. Azanchi 1,2, U. Heberlein 1,2,*

    1 Department of Anatomy, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143-2822, USA.
    2 Present address: Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Janelia Farm Research Center, Ashburn, VA 20174, USA.
    * To whom correspondence should be addressed. (edited)


    The brain’s reward systems reinforce behaviors required for species survival, including sex, food consumption, and social interaction. Drugs of abuse co-opt these neural pathways, which can lead to addiction. Here, we used Drosophila melanogaster to investigate the relationship between natural and drug rewards. In males, mating increased, whereas sexual deprivation reduced, neuropeptide F (NPF) levels. Activation or inhibition of the NPF system in turn reduced or enhanced ethanol preference. These results thus link sexual experience, NPF system activity, and ethanol consumption. Artificial activation of NPF neurons was in itself rewarding and precluded the ability of ethanol to act as a reward. We propose that activity of the NPF–NPF receptor axis represents the state of the fly reward system and modifies behavior accordingly.

    Source: Science Mag


  1. godztear
    Interesting that there seams to be a spike (ha pun) in fruit fly/alcohol research as of lately.

    Another story about Fruit Flies and alcohol consumption. I think its pretty coincidental that these two professors at two separate institutes happen to be studying the same exact species of fruit flies at the exact same time. The only difference seams to be what stimulus was introduced to see how the flies react to alcohol ingestion. I wonder where the funding is coming from?
  2. Holydiver
    It's almost like homeostasis takes over and drives you to find another *fix* to compensate for the no sexual intercourse. It's almost like saying there would be no drug addicts if everyone was having sex daily.:laugh:
    Well, Drosophila melanogaster aka the Common Fruit Fly, has been extensivly used for research of all kind. I would rather say that these studies co-relate, than saying they coincide.

    Excerpt from Tipsy Fruit Flies on a Mission to Kill Parasites

    Besides this, T. A. Schlenke did back in 2005 the study "A role for alcohol dehydrogenase in the Drosophila immune response?"
    In this cenario, the Ethanol was induced looking for a response regarding Ethanol tolerance and correlation with certain proteins.

    In contrast, the study "Sexual Deprivation Increases Ethanol Intake in Drosophilaas", as reported below, demonstrates that Drosophila melanogaster actively seeks Ethanol, if sexually deprived:
    which I find interesting, considering that consumption of ethanol is also part of their natural defense mechanism, as informed in the article "Tipsy Fruit Flies on a Mission to Kill Parasites" and is only possible to their Ethanol tolerance in the 1st place.

    At least this is how I see things - feel free to correct me or add relevant information!
  4. coolhandluke
    from my experience of being at a house a few days after a kegger that hasent been cleaned up, fruit flys love old beers and other alcoholic drinks. i think the ones around here have evolved to love alcohol induced orgies after drinking left over beer.

    that is a joke, but i have been in houses with some serious fruit fly action going on, and it is mostly from un cleaned parties.

    it seems pretty logical for something that has a basic need, and is deprived that, using alcohol would help compensate.
  5. mickey_bee
    Interesting how similar humans and flies are!

    I think a lot of drug/alcohol abuse is down to the same principle. You aren't getting that physiological satisfaction from 'clean' life, but your body still demands it, so you find alternatives. Everyone needs the same shit to get them through life at the end of the day, whether it comes 'naturally' or 'artificially' makes little difference IMO.
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