Locomotor Activity Is Regulated by D2-Like Receptors in Drosophila: An Anatomic and Functional Analysis

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In mammals, dopamine 2-like receptors are expressed in distinct pathways within the central nervous system, as well as in peripheral tissues. Selected neuronal D2-like receptors play a critical role in modulating locomotor activity and, as such, represent an important therapeutic target (e.g. in Parkinson's disease). Previous studies have established that proteins required for dopamine (DA) neurotransmission are highly conserved between mammals and the fruit flyDrosophila melanogaster.These include a fly dopamine 2-like receptor (DD2R; Hearn et al. PNAS 2002 99(22):14554) that has structural and pharmacologic similarity to the human D2-like (D2R). In the current study, we define the spatial expression pattern of DD2R, and functionally characterize flies with reduced DD2 receptor levels. We show that DD2R is expressed in the larval and adult nervous systems, in cell groups that include the Ap-let cohort of peptidergic neurons, as well as in peripheral tissues including the gut and Malpighian tubules. To examine DD2R functionin vivo, we generated RNA-interference (RNAi) flies with reduced DD2R expression. Behavioral analysis revealed that these flies show significantly decreased locomotor activity, similar to the phenotype observed in mammals with reduced D2R expression. The fly RNAi phenotype can be rescued by administration of the DD2R synthetic agonist bromocriptine, indicating specificity for the RNAi effect. These results suggest Drosophila as a useful system for future studies aimed at identifying modifiers of dopaminergic signaling/locomotor function.

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