Dispensable, redundant, complementary, and cooperative roles of dopamine, octopamine, and serotonin in Drosophila melanogaster

Genetics. 2013 Jan;193(1):159-76. doi: 10.1534/genetics.112.142042. Epub 2012 Oct 19.


To investigate the regulation of Drosophila melanogaster behavior by biogenic amines, we have exploited the broad requirement of the vesicular monoamine transporter (VMAT) for the vesicular storage and exocytotic release of all monoamine neurotransmitters. We used the Drosophila VMAT (dVMAT) null mutant to globally ablate exocytotic amine release and then restored DVMAT activity in either individual or multiple aminergic systems, using transgenic rescue techniques. We find that larval survival, larval locomotion, and female fertility rely predominantly on octopaminergic circuits with little apparent input from the vesicular release of serotonin or dopamine. In contrast, male courtship and fertility can be rescued by expressing DVMAT in octopaminergic or dopaminergic neurons, suggesting potentially redundant circuits. Rescue of major aspects of adult locomotion and startle behavior required octopamine, but a complementary role was observed for serotonin. Interestingly, adult circadian behavior could not be rescued by expression of DVMAT in a single subtype of aminergic neurons, but required at least two systems, suggesting the possibility of unexpected cooperative interactions. Further experiments using this model will help determine how multiple aminergic systems may contribute to the regulation of other behaviors. Our data also highlight potential differences between behaviors regulated by standard exocytotic release and those regulated by other mechanisms.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Circadian Rhythm / genetics
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Larva / metabolism
  • Locomotion
  • Male
  • Mutation
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism*
  • Octopamine / metabolism*
  • Reflex, Startle / genetics
  • Reproduction
  • Serotonin / metabolism*
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Octopamine
  • Serotonin
  • Dopamine