Publication Date

Fall 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Biological Sciences


Rachael French


CPT1, drosophila, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, fetal alcohol syndrome, lipid metabolism, withered

Subject Areas

Molecular biology


Exposure to ethanol during development causes a variety of physical, developmental, and cognitive abnormalities. In humans, these symptoms are referred to as fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) or fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). Previously, we established a Drosophila melanogaster model of FASD and showed that developmental ethanol exposure causes oxidative stress, and that this is a primary cause of the developmental lethality and delay associated with ethanol exposure. In this study, we investigate the role of fatty acid metabolism and lipid accumulation in connection to FASD. Here, we show that developmental ethanol exposure leads to dysregulation of fatty acid metabolism and lipid accumulation. Flies reared in ethanol-containing food had increased fat storage and had increased expression of withered, a lipid metabolism gene. Further, we saw a novel synergistic interaction between ethanol and a long-chain saturated fatty acid (palmitic acid), which strongly indicates that they both have the same molecular target in the cell. Our results show that one of the mechanisms by which ethanol induces oxidative stress is through dysregulation of fatty acid metabolism. These data suggest that dietary changes may prevent some aspects of FASD.