Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Coevolution: Hallucinogenic Cacti & Andean Population


  This study aimed to identify ortholog genes between Drosophila buzzatii and humans, particularly indigenous population located in the Central Andes. Hallucinogen plants, psychotropic cacti in this case, have been an integral part of Shamanism and has been utilized in rituals as far back as thousands of years. The plant of focus is hallucinogenic cacti within the genus Trichocereus, more commonly called San Pedro. It is high in phenylethylamine alkaloids and particularly high in mescaline, a hallucinogenic alkaloid. Due to the long relationship between hallucinogenic cacti and indigenous populations there were suggestions of positive selection pressure in these populations and the development of tolerance for alkaloids, a secondary metabolite.

The vivo study focused in on transcriptomic responses in the cactophilic Drosophila and using the genetic model of the fruit fly were able to identify genes that assist in the metabolism of alkaloids present in hallucinogenic cacti. Ten ortholog genes were identified and support the suggestion that generational exposure to cacti alkaloid have elicited a genetic change. The results potentially suggest a small shift in allele frequencies in reference to the metabolism of alkaloids, a possible result of consumption of San Pedro cacti over the course of many generations.

Other suggestions are made in terms of shifts in allele frequencies induced by distinct diet among these populations, such as the region's diet being rich in roots and tubers. This study and those alike improve understanding of the selection for detoxification genes, how SNPs may impact detoxification of plant secondary metabolites or drugs, and the ethnic variability of these genes. More studies in this variability could individualize drug related use as it relates to misuse, tolerance, and susceptibility to addiction.

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