Natural variation in the npr-1 gene modifies ethanol responses of wild strains of C. elegans

Davies AG, Bettinger JC, Thiele TR, Judy ME, McIntire SL

Neuron 2004 Jun;42(5):731-43

PMID: 15182714


Variation in the acute response to ethanol between individuals has a significant impact on determining susceptibility to alcoholism. The degree to which genetics contributes to this variation is of great interest. Here we show that allelic variation that alters the functional level of NPR-1, a neuropeptide Y (NPY) receptor-like protein, can account for natural variation in the acute response to ethanol in wild strains of Caenorhabditis elegans. NPR-1 negatively regulates the development of acute tolerance to ethanol, a neuroadaptive process that compensates for effects of ethanol. Furthermore, dynamic changes in the NPR-1 pathway provide a mechanism for ethanol tolerance in C. elegans. This suggests an explanation for the conserved function of NPY-related pathways in ethanol responses across diverse species. Moreover, these data indicate that genetic variation in the level of NPR-1 function determines much of the phenotypic variation in adaptive behavioral responses to ethanol that are observed in natural populations.