Male fruit flies turn to alcohol after their sexual advances are rejected by females
Male fruit flies act a bit like humans; when their advances for sex are rejected, they turn to alcohol.
According to a study published in Science Daily, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, found that rejected male fruit flies had a tiny neuropeptide F molecule in their brains that makes them drink alcohol far more than their sexually satisfied counterparts.
The molecule’s levels were higher in sexually satisfied males than in those who had no sex, leading researchers to speculate that their work could shed light on the brain mechanisms behind human addiction.
A similar human neuropeptide Y molecule may also link social triggers to behaviours such as heavy drinking and drug abuse.
Scientific trials are being conducted to find out if neuropeptide Y can treat obesity, anxiety, and other mood problems.
Ulrike Heberlein, a UCSF anatomy and neurology professor and main researcher, said, “If neuropeptide Y turns out to be the measuring device between the state of the psyche and the drive to abuse alcohol and drugs, one could develop treatments to inhibit neuropeptide Y receptors.”
Researchers conducted an experiment on male fruit flies and female flies, including virgins and those that had mated.
How the research was carried out
Virgin females were receptive to courting males and readily mated, while mated females lost interest due to sex peptide, a substance that males inject with sperm during the encounter.
Rejected males stopped trying to mate even when placed in the same cage as virgin flies. However, when placed in a container with food with 15% alcohol, rejected males binged on the alcohol. The behaviour was predicted by the levels of neuropeptide F in their brains, which represents the level of reward in the brain and translates it into reward-seeking behaviour.
The scientists found that genetically manipulating neuropeptide F levels in flies could induce similar behaviours. Hopefully, this study will lead to breakthroughs in the study of addiction.