Pigmentation and behavior: potential association through pleiotropic genes in Drosophila

Genes Genet Syst. 2013;88(3):165-74. doi: 10.1266/ggs.88.165.


The molecular basis of pigmentation variation within and among Drosophila species is largely attributed to genes in melanin biosynthesis pathway, which involves dopamine metabolism. Most of the genetic changes underlying pigmentation variations reported to date are changes at the expression levels of the structural genes in the pathway. Within D. melanogaster, changes in cis-regulatory regions of a gene, ebony, are responsible for the naturally occurring variation of the body pigmentation intensity. This gene is also known to be expressed in glia, and many visual and behavioral abnormalities of its mutants have been reported. This implies that the gene has pleiotropic functions in the nervous systems. In this review, current knowledge on pigmentation variation and melanin biosynthesis pathway are summarized, with some focus on pleiotropic features of ebony and other genes in the pathway. A potential association between pigmentation and behavior through such pleiotropic genes is discussed in light of cis-regulatory structure and pleiotropic mutations.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / physiology*
  • Dopamine / genetics
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism
  • Drosophila Proteins / physiology*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / metabolism
  • Gene Expression
  • Genes, Insect
  • Genetic Pleiotropy*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Histamine / metabolism
  • Melanins / biosynthesis*
  • Melanins / genetics
  • Neuroglia / metabolism
  • Phenotype
  • Pigmentation / genetics*
  • Pigmentation / physiology*
  • Pigments, Biological
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Species Specificity


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Melanins
  • Pigments, Biological
  • e protein, Drosophila
  • Histamine
  • Dopamine