A developmental role for catecholamines in Drosophila behavior

Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2005 Aug;81(4):849-53. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2005.06.008.


Tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), the enzyme which catalyzes the conversion of tyrosine to L-DOPA and is the rate limiting step in catecholamine biosynthesis, is genetically expressed during development in Drosophila. Null mutant alleles of the single copy gene which codes for this enzyme are developmentally lethal as is a conditional TH mutant at its restrictive temperature. In adult flies, inhibition of TH by alpha-methyl-p-tyrosine (alphaMT) decreases locomotor activity in a dose-dependent manner. This behavioral effect is accompanied by reductions in brain levels of dopamine, the primary CNS catecholamine in Drosophila, and can be prevented by the coadministration of L-DOPA. Similar effects are found with reserpine and at the restrictive temperature in flies with a temperature conditional mutation for TH. In agreement with published studies in mammals, inhibition of TH by alphaMT during Drosophila development results in enhanced expression of this enzyme in the progeny of surviving adults. This biochemical outcome is accompanied behaviorally by increased sensitivity to the locomotor effects of both alphaMT and reserpine, drugs which act via depletion of brain catecholamines. Since TH is the rate limiting enzyme responsible for the conversion of tyrosine to L-DOPA and L-DOPA is converted to dopamine by aromatic amino acid decarboxylase (AAAD), the results indicate that depletion of catecholamine levels in the fly embryo results in increased dopamine biosynthesis in the next generation accompanied by alterations in behavior.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Catecholamines / metabolism
  • Catecholamines / physiology*
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drosophila / genetics
  • Drosophila / growth & development
  • Drosophila / physiology*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Levodopa / pharmacology
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Mutation
  • Reserpine / pharmacology
  • Temperature
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / genetics
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / metabolism
  • alpha-Methyltyrosine / pharmacology


  • Catecholamines
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Levodopa
  • alpha-Methyltyrosine
  • Reserpine
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase
  • Dopamine