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J Neurogenet. 2009;23(1-2):220-4. doi: 10.1080/01677060802441356. Epub 2008 Nov 24.

Stimulating PACalpha increases miniature excitatory junction potential frequency at the Drosophila neuromuscular junction.

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Lehrstuhl für Genetik und Neurobiolgie, Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany.


Photoactivated adenylate cyclase alpha (PACalpha) is a light-activated adenylate cyclase that was originally cloned from the eye spot of the protozoan Euglena gracilis. PACalpha has been shown to rapidly increase intracellular cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) in vivo in Xenopus oocytes and HEK293 cells, increase the spike width in Aplysia sensory neurons, and modify behavior in Drosophila. Using the GAL4 UAS system, we heterologously expressed PACalpha in motorneurons and quantified the effects of its activation at the neuromuscular junction of the Drosophila third instar wandering larva, a well-characterized model synapse. By recording from body-wall muscle 6, we show that the presynaptic activation of PACalpha with blue light significantly increased miniature excitatory junction potential (mEJP) frequency in the presence of calcium with a delay of about 1 minute. Similar effects have been observed in previous studies that utilized adenylate cyclase agonists (Forskolin) or membrane-permeable cAMP analogs [dibutyryl cAMP and 4-chlorophenylthio-(CPT)-cAMP] to increase presynaptic cAMP concentrations. PACalpha's efficacy in combination with its specificity make it an invaluable tool for the rapid regulation of cAMP in vivo and for investigating the mechanisms by which cAMP can modulate synaptic transmission and neuronal plasticity in Drosophila.

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