Monday, 19 March 2012

Drowning your sorrows

This article in is too good not to comment on and yet another reason why research on fruitflies is brilliant. Their research basically shows that male flies are far more likely to choose a drink with alcohol when they have been sexually rejected. Looks like a conserved behaviour!
Interestingly this behaviour appears to be related to the levels of a chemical called neuropeptide F (NPF) in that low levels are associated with a preference for alcohol and increasing NPF levels in a rejected male can revert the preference for alcohol. There is a related protien in mammals called Neuropeptide Y.

The relevance to humans is interesting, in that most men probably agree they've hit the bottle after an embarrassing rejection on a night out (there's usually alcohol consumption preceding that event too). Now we can pretend it's all out of our control! The interesting thing is whether this could be used as a treatment for alcoholism? Could women accept men's advances on prescription? The long term benefits could really benefit the NHS.

Back to flies, there are clearly many follow up experiments that need to be considered that can take advantage of Drosophila genetics. First of all they need to screen for mutants that modulate this observed behaviour. Are there mutations where the male fly drinks alcohol before attempting to be rejected? Are there male flies that, despite regular rejections remain in a state of denial? Are male flies that never choose alcohol in a constant state of sexual satisfaction? While we're at it how about some research into the female of the species. Do female flies ever get down over rejection and are they more likely to consume chocolate/ice-cream?


  1. The drunk ones must be more likely to be killed by predators so maybe its some kind of biological way to weed them out of the gene pool?

  2. That makes a kind of sense - although it could also select for flies with high alcohol tolerance. Another angle could be that male flies get "beer goggles" and that after being spurned by their first choices they hit the bottle and their standards drop. Then the ugly female flies and the sub-prime males are all winners.