Fruit Flies Alcohol and Sex

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The way fruit flies multiply it doesn’t seem sexual deprivation would ever be an issue. The truth is, male fruit flies consume more alcohol when their sexual advances are rejected by female fruit flies.

Compared to male fruit flies that are seemingly sexually satisfied, rejected male fruit flies consume significantly more alcohol than satisfied males flies. While this may seem like something out of a bad fruit fly romance novel, scientists at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) are examining scientific evidence that shows there is more to fruit flies drowning their sorrow than there seems.

Researchers at UCSF found the tiny molecule in the brains of fruit flies called neuropeptide F that is responsible for their alcohol consumption is correlated with change in behavior. In other words, as the levels of neuropeptide F increase, fruit flies behavior changes and they consume more alcohol.

Searching for the source of addiction

This research is significant because it could help identify mechanisms in the brain that underlie addiction. Another molecule known as neuropeptide Y could connect social triggers to addiction issues such as excessive drinking and drug abuse. The researchers from UCSF observed adjusted levels of neuropeptide Y altering addiction behavior in fruit flies.

If neuropeptides such as F and Y are shows to contribute to addiction, therapies that inhibit neuropeptide receptors may be developed and a successful treatment for addition could be found. Further, because it is known that people with PTSD and depression have a higher rate of addiction, and reduced rates of neuropeptide Y are present in these persons, this research could lead to successful treatment of these disorders as well.

Fruit flies studied in the laboratory were found to drink alcohol until intoxication. When the same fruit flies had sexual experiences, the neuropeptide F became altered in the brain and they drank only a small amount of alcohol. Flies that were sexually rejected however, had lower levels of neuropeptide F and sought alternative reward by consuming alcohol until they reached intoxication.

Researchers showed they could produce the same results in fruit flies who were virgins by genetically altering the amount of neuropeptide F in their brains. Increasing neuropeptide F to make the fruit flies think they were sexually satisfied resulted in reduced alcohol consumption rates that were the same as the fruit flies that actually engaged in sexual behavior. The flies reduced their alcohol consumption.

The complete article about this research can be found in the March 16, 2012 issue of Science.

Source: Medical News Today

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