The Effect of Alcohol on G protein expression in Drosophila Melanogaster

PhD Thesis

Umukoro, Oghenetega Francisca 2015. The Effect of Alcohol on G protein expression in Drosophila Melanogaster. PhD Thesis University of East London Health, Sport and Bioscience
AuthorsUmukoro, Oghenetega Francisca
TypePhD Thesis

Alcohol is one of the most widely used and socially acceptable drugs in the world.
However, its chronic use can lead to serious problems including the development of
tolerance. Acute and chronic use of ethanol leads to short-term and long-term changes
in gene expression in the brain resulting in cellular and molecular adaptations that are
associated with addictive behaviours. Our understanding of the mechanisms by which
alcohol produces these changes in the brain is not fully understood. Ethanol affects the
function of receptors including G protein-coupled receptors that activate heterotrimeric
G proteins. The aim of this thesis is to understand whether ethanol can cause changes in
G protein gene expression using Drosophila melanogaster as a model.
Drosophila is a genetically tractable organism suitable to investigate the neural
substrates of neuroadaptive responses to ethanol. The response to ethanol and the onset
of tolerance was measured in wild-type and mutant Drosophila. While tolerance was
consistently observed in all fly populations, individual differences in sensitivity to
alcohol were observed, which prompted the isolation of subpopulations of Drosophila
with distinct ethanol characteristics. Relative mRNA expression in G protein subunits
was measured using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction in different
Drosophila strains (wild-type, subpopulations of early and late responders, G protein
mutants and dopamine 1-like D2 receptor mutants) that have received zero, one, two or
three ethanol exposures at 24 h intervals.
When measured in the wild-type strains, changes in G protein subunits expression were
variable. However in a subpopulations of early responders that were selected for high
ethanol sensitivity, a non-statistically significant decrease of two Gα-protein subunits:
Gi and Gq were observed. When measured in two Drosophila mutant strains, flies with
either deletion of dopamine D2 receptor or a mutated Gi gene subunit, statistically
significant changes were observed in Gi and Gq subunits. In a further study, a mutant
expressing non-functional Gq, the Gi expression was not affected by the ethanol
treatment suggesting a possible crosstalk between different signalling pathways. These
results justify a more detailed investigation of changes in G protein subunits following
acute and chronic exposure to ethanol in Drosophila, which will allow verifying the
hypothesis that changes in gene expression of G proteins participate in addictive
behaviours in Drosophila. These findings in Drosophila, which share genetic and
functional characteristics with the mammalian nervous system, could translate into
important advances in identifying targets for treatment for alcohol addiction in humans.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Publication dates
PrintMay 2015
Publication process dates
Deposited21 Oct 2015
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