Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Chem Biol Interact. 2011 May 30;191(1-3):14-25. doi: 10.1016/j.cbi.2011.02.008. Epub 2011 Feb 15.

Natural alcohol exposure: is ethanol the main substrate for alcohol dehydrogenases in animals?

Author information

  • 1Departamento de Bioquímica, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, México, DF, Mexico.


Alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) activity is widely distributed in all phyla. In animals, three non-homologous NAD(P)(+)-dependent ADH protein families are reported. These arose independently throughout evolution and possess different structures and mechanisms of reaction: type I (medium-chain) ADHs are zinc-containing enzymes and comprise the most studied group in vertebrates; type II (short-chain) ADHs lack metal cofactor and have been extensively studied in Drosophila; and type III ADHs are iron-dependent/-activated enzymes that were initially identified only in microorganisms. The presence of these different ADHs in animals has been assumed to be a consequence of chronic exposure to ethanol. By far the most common natural source of ethanol is fermentation of fruit sugars by yeast, and available data support that this fruit trait evolved in concert with the characteristics of their frugivorous seed dispersers. Therefore, if the presence of ADHs in animals evolved as an adaptive response to dietary ethanol exposure, then it can be expected that the enzymogenesis of these enzymes began after the appearance of angiosperms with fleshy fruits, because substrate availability must precede enzyme selection. In this work, available evidence supporting this possibility is discussed. Phylogenetic analyses reveal that type II ADHs suffered several duplications, all of these restricted to flies (order Diptera). Induction of type II Adh by ethanol exposure, a positive correlation between ADH activity and ethanol resistance, and the fact that flies and type II Adh diversification occurred in concert with angiosperm diversification, strongly suggest that type II ADHs were recruited to allow larval flies to exploit new restricted niches with high ethanol content. In contrast, phyletic distribution of types I and III ADHs in animals showed that these appeared before angiosperms and land plants, independently of ethanol availability. Because these enzymes are not induced by ethanol exposure and possess a high affinity and/or catalytic efficiency for non-ethanol endogenous substrates, it can be concluded that the participation of types I and III ADHs in ethanol metabolism can be considered as incidental, and not adaptive.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

LinkOut - more resources

Full Text Sources

Other Literature Sources

Molecular Biology Databases


PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Elsevier Science
    Loading ...
    Support Center