Dopamine and sensory tissue development in Drosophila melanogaster

J Neurobiol. 2001 Jun 15;47(4):280-94. doi: 10.1002/neu.1035.


Dopamine is an important signaling molecule in the nervous system; it also plays a vital role in the development of diverse non-neuronal tissues in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. The current study demonstrates that males depleted of dopamine as third instar larvae (via inhibition of the biosynthetic enzyme tyrosine hydroxylase) demonstrated abnormalities in courtship behavior as adults. These defects were suggestive of abnormalities in sensory perception and/or processing. Electroretinograms (ERGs) of eyes from adults depleted of dopamine for 1 day as third instar larvae revealed diminished or absent on- and off-transients. These sensory defects were rescued by the addition of L-DOPA in conjunction with tyrosine hydroxylase inhibition during the larval stage. Depletion of dopamine in the first or second larval instar was lethal, but this was not due to a general inhibition of proliferative cells. To establish that dopamine was synthesized in tissues destined to become part of the adult sensory apparatus, transgenic lines were generated containing 1 or 4 kb of 5' upstream sequences from the Drosophila tyrosine hydroxylase gene (DTH) fused to the E. coli beta-galactosidase reporter. The DTH promoters directed expression of the reporter gene in discrete and consistent patterns within the imaginal discs, in addition to the expected expression in gonadal, brain, and cuticular tissues. The beta-galactosidase expression colocalized with tyrosine hydroxylase protein. These results are consistent with a developmental requirement for dopamine in the normal physiology of adult sensory tissues.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology
  • Dopamine / deficiency
  • Dopamine / physiology*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / growth & development*
  • Electroretinography
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • Gonads / physiology
  • Larva / physiology
  • Male
  • Reference Values
  • Retina / growth & development
  • Retina / physiology
  • Sensation / physiology*
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Transcription, Genetic / physiology
  • Transcriptional Activation / physiology
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / pharmacology
  • beta-Galactosidase / genetics


  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase
  • beta-Galactosidase
  • Dopamine