Activating properties of cocaine and cocaethylene in a behavioral preparation of Drosophila melanogaster

Synapse. 1998 Jun;29(2):148-61. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1098-2396(199806)29:2<148::AID-SYN6>3.0.CO;2-7.


The use of Drosophila as a model to study the behavioral consequences of stimulant drugs was analyzed in an active preparation of decapitated Drosophila. Application of cocaine and cocaethylene to discrete nerve cord cells regulating motor programs of behavior produced striking patterns of behavioral activity in a concentration-related manner. In general, intense circling behavior and significant wing buzzing activity were distinguishable behavioral markers in flies treated with mM concentrations of cocaine or cocaethylene. The significant changes in motor behavior induced by stimulant drugs in decapitated flies were not reproduced by the application of apomorphine, a direct dopamine (DA) agonist, or octopamine, a naturally occurring transmitter in arthropods. Because both cocaine and cocaethylene interfere with DA reuptake in mammals, we characterized the role of DA receptors mediating increased stereotypy and motor behavior in flies. Coadministration of SCH-23390, a specific D1 receptor antagonist, significantly attenuated the behavior-activating properties of cocaine and cocaethylene in this active experimental preparation. Therefore, the receptor protein mediating the behavioral responses to stimulant drugs in Drosophila is pharmacologically similar to the mammalian D1 subtype. In rats, cocaine- and cocaethylene-induced behavioral activity is complex, with increasing evidence that the D1 receptor interacts significantly with N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor pathways to produce an altered behavioral phenotype. To further characterize additional receptor subtypes targeted by the actions of cocaine and cocaethylene, we pretreated flies with MK-801 and dextromethorphan. Both of these drugs are potent, selective noncompetitive NMDA receptor antagonists. Interestingly, MK-801 and dextromethorphan profoundly reduced the behavior-activating properties of cocaine and cocaethylene in Drosophila. Therefore, as in rats, the NMDA (and D1) receptor pathways in this arthropod represent obligatory targets for the behavioral effects of stimulant drugs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic alpha-Agonists / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Cocaine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Cocaine / pharmacology
  • Dopamine Agonists / pharmacology
  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Nervous System / drug effects
  • Nervous System / ultrastructure
  • Receptors, Dopamine D1 / agonists
  • Receptors, Dopamine D1 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Stereotyped Behavior / drug effects
  • Stimulation, Chemical


  • Adrenergic alpha-Agonists
  • Dopamine Agonists
  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors
  • Receptors, Dopamine D1
  • cocaethylene
  • Cocaine