A map of octopaminergic neurons in the Drosophila brain

J Comp Neurol. 2009 Apr 20;513(6):643-67. doi: 10.1002/cne.21966.


The biogenic amine octopamine modulates diverse behaviors in invertebrates. At the single neuron level, the mode of action is well understood in the peripheral nervous system owing to its simple structure and accessibility. For elucidating the role of individual octopaminergic neurons in the modulation of complex behaviors, a detailed analysis of the connectivity in the central nervous system is required. Here we present a comprehensive anatomical map of candidate octopaminergic neurons in the adult Drosophila brain: including the supra- and subesophageal ganglia. Application of the Flp-out technique enabled visualization of 27 types of individual octopaminergic neurons. Based on their morphology and distribution of genetic markers, we found that most octopaminergic neurons project to multiple brain structures with a clear separation of dendritic and presynaptic regions. Whereas their major dendrites are confined to specific brain regions, each cell type targets different, yet defined, neuropils distributed throughout the central nervous system. This would allow them to constitute combinatorial modules assigned to the modulation of distinct neuronal processes. The map may provide an anatomical framework for the functional constitution of the octopaminergic system. It also serves as a model for the single-cell organization of a particular neurotransmitter in the brain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Drosophila / anatomy & histology*
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Octopamine / metabolism*
  • Tyrosine Decarboxylase / metabolism


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Octopamine
  • Tdc2 protein, Drosophila
  • Tyrosine Decarboxylase