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Curr Biol. 2002 Dec 23;12(24):2152-8.

An unusual cation channel mediates photic control of locomotion in Drosophila.

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Laboratory of Molecular Biology, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


A unique family of putative ion channels that are related to voltage-gated sodium and calcium channels has been identified in genomic and cDNA studies of metazoans. Aside from evidence for expression of family members in the nervous system, little is known about the operation of the channel or its functional significance. In the present study, this conserved family's sole Drosophila member, a gene known both as CG1517 and as Dmalpha1U, is shown to correspond to the narrow abdomen (na) gene and is the locus of a set of mutations that affect sensitivity to anesthetics. Immunohistochemistry of adult heads reveals that the channel is expressed in the neuropil of the central complex and optic lobe; expression is severely depressed in the mutants. In addition to previously described defects, the mutant phenotype is demonstrated here to include dysfunction in the coupling between light and locomotor behavior. Most dramatically, mutant flies have an inversion of relative locomotor activity in light versus dark. The involvement of the channel in daily rhythms of the fruit fly is especially provocative because the human ortholog lies in a candidate region linked to bipolar disorder, a disease frequently associated with altered diurnal behavior.

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