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The Genetic Switch for Alcohol Tolerance

By Vicki Mozo

The research team from North Carolina University identified an interesting switch for alcohol tolerance. The switch is a set of genes believed to play an essential role in alcohol tolerance.

The research team was headed by Dr. Tatiana Morozova, a post-doctoral researcher in biology. Other members include Dr. Trudy Mackay, a genetics professor of the William Neal Reynolds Distinguished University, Dr. Eric Stone, a statistics expert, Julien Ayroles, and researchers from Boston University School of Medicine.

The team is interested on the effect of polymorphisms on phenotypic variations. Thus, they designed their study that primarily intends to characterize the system of genes in fruit flies while exposed to alcohol. The team measured the time when the flies stagger following alcohol intake and then simultaneously identifying the differences in gene expressions.

Using a statistical tool they were able to determine if the genes worked collectively to render alcohol tolerance in the flies. They looked closely to the counterpart gene they caled ME1. This gene would be able to tell the genetic tendencies of an individual to consume strong alcoholic beverages.

The results from their study using fruit fly models identified a genetic switch that made the flies alcohol tolerant. Although they made use of fruit flies, the researchers believe that their findings are applicable to humans. In that case, the metabolic pathways that account for alcohol tolerance may have been similar in humans and therefore provide a genetic understanding of alcoholism in humans. If found true, a possible therapeutic intervention on this genetic switch can be developed, and revert the common complications associated with alcoholism such as cirrhosis.


North Carolina State University, "Alcohol Tolerance 'Switch' Found," ScienceDaily 22 October 2009, http://www.sciencedaily.com¬ /releases/2009/10/091021115157.htm.

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