Higher brain functions of PACAP and a homologous Drosophila memory gene amnesiac: insights from knockouts and mutants

Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2002 Sep 27;297(3):427-31. doi: 10.1016/s0006-291x(02)02144-7.


Neuropeptides usually exert a long-lived modulatory effect on the small-molecule neurotransmitters with which they colocalize via regulation of the response times of second messenger systems. Pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide (PACAP) functions as a neuromodulator and neurotransmitter and regulates a variety of physiological processes. PACAP is structurally highly conserved during evolution, implying its vital importance. In Drosophila, loss-of-function mutations in a PACAP-like neuropeptide gene, amnesiac (amn), affect both memory retention and ethanol sensitivity. The amnesiac gene is expressed in neurons innervating the mushroom body lobes, the olfactory associative learning center. Conditional genetic ablation of neurotransmitter release from these neurons mimics the amnesiac memory phenotypes, suggesting an acute role for amnesiac in memory. However, genetic rescue experiments also suggest developmental defects in amnesiac mutants, implying a role in neuronal development. There is a parallel between memory formation in Drosophila and mammals. PACAP-specific (PAC(1)) receptor-deficient mice show a deficit in hippocampus-dependent associative learning and mossy fiber long-term potentiation (LTP). Meanwhile, PACAP-deficient mice display a high early mortality rate and additional CNS phenotypes including behavioral and psychological phenotypes (e.g., hyperlocomotion, intense novelty-seeking behavior, and explosive jumping). A functional comparison between PACAP and amnesiac underlines phylogenetically conserved functions across phyla and may provide insights into the possible mechanisms of action and evolution of this neuropeptidergic system.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Drosophila / genetics*
  • Drosophila / physiology*
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics*
  • Gene Deletion
  • Mammals
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutagenesis
  • Nervous System Physiological Phenomena*
  • Neuropeptides / genetics*
  • Neuropeptides / physiology*
  • Pituitary Adenylate Cyclase-Activating Polypeptide
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Neuropeptides
  • Pituitary Adenylate Cyclase-Activating Polypeptide
  • amn protein, Drosophila