Profile Url: emily-petruccelli
Researcher at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
Repeated alcohol experiences can produce long-lasting memories for sensory cues associated with intoxication. These memories can ultimately trigger relapse in individuals recovering from alcohol use disorder (AUD). The molecular mechanisms by which alcohol changes memories to become long-lasting and inflexible remain unclear. New methods to analyze gene expression within precise neuronal cell-types can provide further insight towards AUD prevention and treatment. Here, we employed genetic tools in Drosophila melanogaster to investigate the lasting consequences of ethanol on transcription in memory-encoding neurons. Drosophila rely on mushroom body (MB) neurons to make associative memories, including memories of ethanol-associated sensory cues. Differential expression analyses found that distinct transcripts, but not genes, in the MB were associated with experiencing ethanol alone compared to forming a memory of an odor cue associated with ethanol. These findings reveal the dynamic and highly context-specific regulation of splicing associated with encoding behavioral experiences. Our data thus demonstrate that alcohol can have lasting effects on transcription and RNA processing during memory formation, and identify new transcript targets for future AUD and addiction investigation.