Modulation of the Drosophila transcriptome by developmental exposure to alcohol


Abstract Background Prenatal exposure to ethanol can cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), a prevalent, preventable pediatric disorder. Identifying genetic risk alleles for FASD is challenging since time, dose, and frequency of exposure are often unknown, and manifestations of FASD are diverse and evident long after exposure. Drosophila melanogaster is an excellent model to study the genetic basis of the effects of developmental alcohol exposure since many individuals of the same genotype can be reared under controlled environmental conditions. Results We used 96 sequenced, wild-derived inbred lines from the Drosophila melanogaster Genetic Reference Panel (DGRP) to profile genome-wide transcript abundances in young adult flies that developed on ethanol-supplemented medium or standard culture medium. We found substantial genetic variation in gene expression in response to ethanol with extensive sexual dimorphism. We constructed sex-specific genetic networks associated with alcohol-dependent modulation of gene expression that include protein-coding genes, Novel Transcribed Regions (NTRs, postulated to encode long non-coding RNAs) and female-specific coordinated regulation of snoRNAs that regulate pseudouridylation of ribosomal RNA. We reared DGRP lines which showed extreme upregulation or downregulation of snoRNA expression during developmental alcohol exposure on standard or ethanol supplemented medium and demonstrated that developmental exposure to ethanol has genotype-specific effects on adult locomotor activity and sleep. Conclusions There is significant and sex-specific natural genetic variation in the transcriptional response to developmental exposure to ethanol in Drosophila that comprises networks of genes affecting nervous system development and ethanol metabolism as well as networks of regulatory non-coding RNAs.

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