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Alcohol-induced aggression is a destructive and widespread phenomenon associated with violence and sexual assault. However, little is understood concerning its mechanistic origin. We have developed a Drosophila melanogaster model to genetically dissect and understand the phenomenon of sexually dimorphic alcohol-induced aggression. Males with blood alcohol levels of 0.04-mg/ml BAC were less aggressive than alcohol-naive males, but when the BAC had dropped to ~0.015 mg/ml, the alcohol-treated males showed an increase in aggression toward other males. This aggression-promoting treatment is referred to as the post-ethanol aggression (PEA) treatment. Females do not show increased aggression after the same treatment. PEA-treated males also spend less time courting and attempt to copulate earlier than alcohol-naive flies. PEA treatment induces expression of the FruM transcription factor (encoded by a male-specific transcript from the fruitless gene), whereas sedating doses of alcohol reduce FruM expression and reduce male aggression. Transgenic suppression of FruM induction also prevents alcohol-induced aggression. In male flies, alcohol-induced aggression is dependent on the male isoform of the fruitless transcription factor (FruM). Low-dose alcohol induces FruM expression and promotes aggression, whereas higher doses of alcohol suppress FruM and suppress aggression.

Original publication




Journal article


Addict Biol

Publication Date





Drosophila, aggression, alcohol-induced aggression, alcohol-use disorder, fruitless, sexually dimorphic behaviour, Aggression, Animals, Drosophila melanogaster, Ethanol, Female, Gene Expression Regulation, Male, Nerve Tissue Proteins, Neurons, Sex Characteristics, Sexual Behavior, Animal, Transcription Factors