Substrates for Neuronal Cotransmission With Neuropeptides and Small Molecule Neurotransmitters in Drosophila

Front Cell Neurosci. 2018 Mar 23;12:83. doi: 10.3389/fncel.2018.00083. eCollection 2018.


It has been known for more than 40 years that individual neurons can produce more than one neurotransmitter and that neuropeptides often are colocalized with small molecule neurotransmitters (SMNs). Over the years much progress has been made in understanding the functional consequences of cotransmission in the nervous system of mammals. There are also some excellent invertebrate models that have revealed roles of coexpressed neuropeptides and SMNs in increasing complexity, flexibility, and dynamics in neuronal signaling. However, for the fly Drosophila there are surprisingly few functional studies on cotransmission, although there is ample evidence for colocalization of neuroactive compounds in neurons of the CNS, based both on traditional techniques and novel single cell transcriptome analysis. With the hope to trigger interest in initiating cotransmission studies, this review summarizes what is known about Drosophila neurons and neuronal circuits where different neuropeptides and SMNs are colocalized. Coexistence of neuroactive substances has been recorded in different neuron types such as neuroendocrine cells, interneurons, sensory cells and motor neurons. Some of the circuits highlighted here are well established in the analysis of learning and memory, circadian clock networks regulating rhythmic activity and sleep, as well as neurons and neuroendocrine cells regulating olfaction, nociception, feeding, metabolic homeostasis, diuretic functions, reproduction, and developmental processes. One emerging trait is the broad role of short neuropeptide F in cotransmission and presynaptic facilitation in a number of different neuronal circuits. This review also discusses the functional relevance of coexisting peptides in the intestine. Based on recent single cell transcriptomics data, it is likely that the neuronal systems discussed in this review are just a fraction of the total set of circuits where cotransmission occurs in Drosophila. Thus, a systematic search for colocalized neuroactive compounds in further neurons in anatomically defined circuits is of interest for the near future.

Keywords: circadian clock; fly brain; mushroom bodies; neuromodulation; neurosecretory cells; olfactory system; presynaptic facilitation; short neuropeptide F.

Publication types

  • Review