First, the drunken flies got hyperactive. Then, they got woozy and conked out until their alcohol buzz wore off.
It was all in the name of science. Ulrike Heberlein, PhD, and colleagues were studying a newfound gene in fruit flies that appears to affect alcohol tolerance.
Gene For Alcohol Tolerance?
Heberlein and colleagues dubbed the gene the "hangover" gene. But the gene didn't literally create hangovers. Instead, it's required for normal development of ethanol tolerance, write the researchers.
Flies with the gene built up tolerance to ethanol fumes. Tolerance allows increased amounts of alcohol to be consumed, which leads to physical dependence and addiction over time.
The gene also makes it harder for the flies to time the handling of stressful conditions, such as heat and a bothersome chemical, write the researchers. This means that the development of alcohol tolerance involves a pathway that handles stressors.
Flies without the gene didn't become tolerant to ethanol, the study showed.