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Neuropharmacology. 2009;56 Suppl 1:97-106. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2008.07.023. Epub 2008 Jul 24.

Drosophila, a genetic model system to study cocaine-related behaviors: a review with focus on LIM-only proteins.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy, and Program in Neuroscience, University of California at San Francisco, 1550 4th Street, Rock Hall, Room RH 448F Mission Bay Campus, San Francisco, CA 94143-2324, USA.


In the last decade, the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, highly accessible to genetic, behavioral and molecular analyses, has been introduced as a novel model organism to help decipher the complex genetic, neurochemical, and neuroanatomical underpinnings of behaviors induced by drugs of abuse. Here we review these data, focusing specifically on cocaine-related behaviors. Several of cocaine's most characteristic properties have been recapitulated in Drosophila. First, cocaine induces motor behaviors in flies that are remarkably similar to those observed in mammals. Second, repeated cocaine administration induces behavioral sensitization a form of behavioral plasticity believed to underlie certain aspects of addiction. Third, a key role for dopaminergic systems in mediating cocaine's effects has been demonstrated through both pharmacological and genetic methods. Finally, and most importantly, unbiased genetic screens, feasible because of the simplicity and scale with which flies can be manipulated in the laboratory, have identified several novel genes and pathways whose role in cocaine behaviors had not been anticipated. Many of these genes and pathways have been validated in mammalian models of drug addiction. We focus in this review on the role of LIM-only proteins in cocaine-induced behaviors.

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