The College of Natural Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin
The University of Texas at Austin

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Nigel Atkinson
Professor in Neuroscience

Main Office: PAT 228
Phone: 232-3404

Alternate Office: PAT 230
Alt. Phone: (512) 471-1629

Mailing Address
The University of Texas at Austin
Neurobiology, Section of
1 University Station C0920
Austin ,TX 78712-0248

Nigel Atkinson

Research Summary

Tolerance is an insidious response to an addictive drug. It causes one to consume more of the drug and and speeds the user down the path of addiction. We study the molecular mechanisms underlying drug tolerance in the fruit fly Drosophila. We sedate flies with organic solvent anesthetics and with alcohol and then monitor animal behavior. We use Drosophila genetics and molecular biology to determine how the Drosophila nervous system responds to the drug to generate behavioral tolerance. We then use the drug-induced patterns of histone modification to identify genes and DNA elements that are important for production of tolerance. We have shown that the BK-type Ca2+-activated K+ channel gene is induced by sedation and is required for production of tolerance. In the presence of the drug, increased expression from this gene counters the effects of the drug, but once the drug is cleared the increase in expression produces a withdrawal phenotype. We have mapped drug-responsive DNA elements that are important for gene induction. We are now taking this approach to a genomic level to identify additional genes and transcriptional responses.



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