The Influence of Alcohol Dehydrogenase Activity Function on Ethanol Intoxication in Drosophila Melanogaster

Abstract: Fermentation of fruit produces low concentrations of ethanol alcohol, animals which consume these ethanol-containing foods naturally evolved the alcohol dehydrogenase pathway to prevent alcohol intoxication. The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, which reacts to and metabolizes ethanol in a similar manner to humans. This makes Drosophila an excellent model to further understand the effects of alcohol metabolism and the genes that produce the enzymes capable of oxidizing alcohol. In this experiment the alcohol metabolism of Drosophila melanogaster will be investigated within three allelic variations of the alcohol dehydrogenase gene; Adh+, Adhn1, and Adh+/Adhn1. The alcohol dehydrogenase gene forms enzymes which function as dimers. Drosophila of the Adh+ variant form an active homodimer which oxidizes ethanol. The methyl-induced mutated Adhn1 variant forms an inactive homodimer. When two parental homodimers of the active and inactive form are crossed, the Adh+/Adhn1 offspring produced will have both an active and inactive subunit forming a heterodimer. Studying the inheritance of methyl-induced genetic mutations such as Adhn1 offers insight into the epigenetics of enzyme activity.
To quantify Drosophila’s loss of postural and locomotive control upon exposure to concentrations of 0%, 5%, 15%, and 25% ethanol alcohol, specimens were placed in an inebriation chamber with vaporized ethanol and data was collected in five-minute intervals for thirty minutes. During this time the height of the Drosophila in the inebriation chambers decreased, more so as the concentration of alcohol increased. This was proved to be statistically significant through linear regression and an ANOVA test. Upon exposure to alcohol, Drosophila of the Adhn1 variant oxidized 0% of the ethanol and experienced the highest degree of ethanol intoxication, sedation, and fatalities. Drosophila of the Adh+ variant oxidized 96.72% of the ethanol and experienced the lowest degree of ethanol intoxication and sedation and had no fatalities. The Adh+/Adhn1 offspring oxidized 87.35% of the ethanol and experienced an intermediate degree of intoxication, sedation, and fatalities. Additionally, the heterozygotes exhibited 89% of the ADH activity of the homodimer parent.

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