A protein found on the surface of nerve cells makes fruit flies tolerant to a drug after just a single, brief exposure, which may reveal ways to address this early step toward addiction in humans.
Neuroscientist Nigel Atkinson at The University of Texas at Austin and his laboratory determined this by studying the response of fruit flies (Drosophila) to a 15-minute exposure to benzyl alcohol coated on the inner walls of test tubes. Flies that had had one previous exposure to the organic solvent recovered more quickly from being knocked out by the drug than flies that were first-timers. The flies that developed tolerance also had increased activity of the slo gene. The gene produces the surface protein, which helps stimulate signaling between nerve cells in the brain.
Genetically modified flies that lacked the slo gene failed to develop tolerance, while flies modified to have increased slo activity were more drug resistant than normal, providing added proof of the genes importance for tolerance. Because the human slo gene is almost identical to the one in fruit flies, Atkinson said, "If we could describe the series of steps involved in changing slo gene expression, then all the components involved in producing that change could become potential targets for anti-addiction drugs."
Barbra Rodriguez | EurekAlert!
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