Direct evidence that genetic variation in glycerol-3-phosphate and malate dehydrogenase genes (Gpdh and Mdh1) affects adult ethanol tolerance in Drosophila melanogaster

Walter F. Eanes, Thomas J.S. Merritt, Jonathan M. Flowers, Seiji Kumagai, Chen Tseh Zhu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Many studies of alcohol adaptation in Drosophila melanogaster have focused on the Adh polymorphism, yet the metabolic elimination of alcohol should involve many enzymes and pathways. Here we evaluate the effects of glycerol-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (Gpdh) and cytosolic malate dehydrogenase (Mdh1) genotype activity on adult tolerance to ethanol. We have created a set of P-element-excision-derived Gpdh, Mdh1, and Adh alleles that generate a range of activity phenotypes from full to zero activity. Comparisons of paired Gpdh genotypes possessing 10 and 60% normal activity and 66 and 100% normal activity show significant effects where higher activity increases tolerance. Mdh1 null allele homozygotes show reductions in tolerance. We use piggyBac FLP-FRT site-specific recombination to create deletions and duplications of Gpdh. Duplications show an increase of 50% in activity and an increase of adult tolerance to ethanol exposure. These studies show that the molecular polymorphism associated with GPDH activity could be maintained in natural populations by selection related to adaptation to alcohols. Finally, we examine the interactions between activity genotypes for Gpdh, Mdh1, and Adh. We find no significant interlocus interactions. Observations on Mdh1 in both Gpdh and Adh backgrounds demonstrate significant increases in ethanol tolerance with partial reductions (50%) in cytosolic MDH activity. This observation strongly suggests the operation of pyruvate-malate and, in particular, pyruvate-citrate cycling in adaptation to alcohol exposure. We propose that an understanding of the evolution of tolerance to alcohols will require a system-level approach, rather than a focus on single enzymes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)607-614
Number of pages8
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2009


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics

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