Neurotransmitter Dynamics in Fruit Flies

We develop methods to detect neurotransmitter changes in the nervous system of adult and larval fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster).  Our main tool is  a microelectrode that can detect rapid neurotransmitter changes.  A secondary technique we have developed is capillary electrophoresis with fast-scan cyclic voltammetry detection to investigate tissue content.  We are currently developing methods to study both serotonin and dopamine release in the fly.  While initial methods were developed in the larvae, we are now studying the adult and targeting the central complex and the mushroom bodies.  These studies are fast and will allow access to a wide array of genetic tools available in the fly.  Current investigations include models for Parkinson disease and how drugs function on the serotonin system.  We are also interested in looking at aging in the fly brain.  

Optogenetic stimulation.  To induce endogenous release,  a light sensitive cation channel is genetically inserted into specific neurons, such as dopamine or serotonin.  We are currently using a red-light activated CsChrimson for all our studies. Endogenous neurotransmitter release is then induced by simply shining a red light on a fly brain and the dynamics of neurotransmission are electrochemically detected. 

Natural Stimulations.  We have also studied the effects of acetylcholine and nicotine as natural stimuli in the fly.  Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors are located on dopamine neurons, so applying nicotine and acetylcholine causes dopamine release, without the need to insert a channel.  These methods have been demonstrated in both adult and larval preparations.  



Representative Publications

Shin, M. ; Venton, B. J. Electrochemical Measurements of Acetylcholine-Stimulated Dopamine Release in Adult Drosophila melanogaster Brains. Analytical Chemistry 2018, 90, 10318-10325.

Pyakurel, P. ; Shin, M. ; Venton, B. J. Nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) mediated dopamine release in larval Drosophila melanogasterNeurochemistry International 2018114, 33–41.

Shin, M. ; Copeland, J. M. ; Venton, B. J. Drosophila as a Model System for Neurotransmitter MeasurementsACS Chemical Neuroscience 20189, 1872–1883.

Pyakurel, P. ; Privman E. C.; Venton, B. J. Fast-scan cyclic voltammetry (FSCV) detection of endogenous octopamine in Drosophila melanogaster ventral nerve cordACS Chemical Neuroscience 20167, 1112–1119.