Drosophila as a Model Organism

Drosophila as a Model Organism

The fruitfly Drosophila offers a model system in which powerful genetic tools can be applied to understanding the neurobiological bases of a range of complex behaviors. The Drosophila and human lineages diverged several hundred million years ago, and despite their obvious differences, flies and humans share many fundamental cellular and neurobiological processes. The similarities include fundamental mechanisms of neuronal signaling, conserved underlying brain architecture and the main classes of neurotransmitter system. Drosophila also has a sophisticated behavioral repertoire that includes extensive abilities to adapt to experience and other circumstances, and is, therefore, susceptible to the same kinds of insults that can cause neuropsychiatric disorders in humans. Given the different physiologies, lifestyles, and cognitive abilities of flies and humans

Drosophila as a Model Organism


ARM Anesthesia-resistant memory

BBB   Blood-brain barrier

cAMP   Cyclic AMP DAT Dopamine transporter

GABA   Gamma-aminobutyric acid

LNs   Lateral neurons

NMJ    Neuromuscular junction

NPF    Neuropeptide F

NPY   Neuropeptide Y

PACAP Pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating protein

PKA  cAMP-dependent protein kinase

SERT Serotonin transporter

SSRI Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor

VMAT Vesicular monoamine transporter

Structure and Analysis of Eukaryotic Genes


Given the complexity and sophistication of behavioral phenotypes in neuropsychiatric disorders, can an apparently much simpler organism such as Drosophila make a useful contribution to our understanding of these disorders? At a number of levels from behavioral to molecular, the answer is certainly yes

The Architecture of the Drosophila Brain and Its Neurotransmitter Systems

The Fly Brain

Before looking at fly behavior and what can go wrong with it, how is the Drosophila brain that mediates this behavior built? The basic building blocks of the brain, neurons, and glia, are found in both flies and mammals. Neurons show almost all the functional and molecular features of mammalian neurons: axons with their transport machinery, pumps, and voltage-gated channels that underlie action potential transmission, presynaptic terminals with all the machinery for synaptic vesicle release and recycling, dendrites, postsynapses with localized receptor fields and active zones

What is centrifuge

Neurotransmitter Systems

The similarities between fly and human nervous systems extend also to the main neurotransmitter systems and channels (Littleton and Ganetzky 2000), which are the targets of many pharmacological interventions relevant to neuropsychiatric conditions. Acetylcholine is the main excitatory neurotransmitter in the Drosophila central nervous system (CNS), in contrast to the more limited role in the mammalian CNS. Like mammals, flies also have choline acetyltransferase

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Drosophila as a Model Organism AbbreviationsARM Anesthesia-resistant memoryBBB   Blood-brain barriercAMP   Cyclic AMP DAT Dopamine transporterGABA