Alcohol potentiates a pheromone signal in flies.
Park A., Tran T., Scheuermann EA., Smith DP., Atkinson NS.
For decades, numerous researchers have documented the presence of the fruit fly or Drosophila melanogaster on alcohol-containing food sources. Although fruit flies are a common laboratory model organism of choice, there is relatively little understood about the ethological relationship between flies and ethanol. In this study, we find that when male flies inhabit ethanol-containing food substrates they become more aggressive. We identify a possible mechanism for this behavior. The odor of ethanol potentiates the activity of sensory neurons in response to an aggression-promoting pheromone. Finally, we observed that the odor of ethanol also promotes attraction to a food-related citrus odor. Understanding how flies interact with the complex natural environment they inhabit can provide valuable insight into how different natural stimuli are integrated to promote fundamental behaviors.