Genetic dissection of monoamine neurotransmitter synthesis in Drosophila

Nature. 1983 May 5-11;303(5912):67-70. doi: 10.1038/303067a0.


The biogenic monoamine neurotransmitters octopamine, dopamine and serotonin have been detected in nervous tissue from many insects. We report here that intact Drosophila melanogaster brains, when incubated with the radioactive amino acids tyrosine and tryptophan, synthesized and accumulated labelled monoamines. In two mutant strains monoamine synthesis was abnormal. The per o mutation abolishes the normal circadian rhythm. Brains from per o flies, when incubated in tritiated tyrosine, accumulated one-third as much labelled octopamine as did brains from wild-type flies, but had normal dopamine and serotonin synthesis. In contrast, dopa decarboxylase (Ddc) mutations decreased dopamine and serotonin synthesis but did not affect octopamine synthesis. These results suggest that there are two different aromatic amino acid decarboxylases in Drosophila brains, one that decarboxylates L-dopa and 5-hydroxytryptophan and another that decarboxylates tyrosine. Direct measurement of L-dopa, 5-hydroxytryptophan and tyrosine decarboxylase activities in the different strains confirmed this suggestion.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aromatic-L-Amino-Acid Decarboxylases / genetics*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Dopa Decarboxylase / genetics*
  • Dopamine / biosynthesis
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Mutation
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / biosynthesis*
  • Octopamine / biosynthesis
  • Serotonin / biosynthesis
  • Tyrosine Decarboxylase / genetics*


  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Octopamine
  • Serotonin
  • 2-octopamine
  • Dopa Decarboxylase
  • Tyrosine Decarboxylase
  • Aromatic-L-Amino-Acid Decarboxylases
  • Dopamine