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Neuroscience. 2011 Sep 29;192:372-81. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2011.06.058. Epub 2011 Jun 25.

Serotonin receptor activity is necessary for olfactory learning and memory in Drosophila melanogaster.

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Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, New Orleans, LA, USA.


Learning and memory in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, is a complex behavior with many parallels to mammalian learning and memory. Although many neurotransmitters including acetylcholine, dopamine, glutamate, and GABA have previously been demonstrated to be involved in aversive olfactory learning and memory, the role of serotonin has not been well defined. Here, we present the first evidence of the involvement of individual serotonin receptors in olfactory learning and memory in the fly. We initially followed a pharmacological approach, utilizing serotonin receptor agonists and antagonists to demonstrate that all serotonin receptor families present in the fly are necessary for short-term learning and memory. Isobolographic analysis utilizing combinations of drugs revealed functional interactions are occurring between 5-HT(1A)-like and 5-HT(2), and 5-HT(2) and 5-HT(7) receptor circuits in mediating short-term learning and memory. Examination of long-term memory suggests that 5-HT(1A)-like receptors are necessary for consolidation and important for recall, 5-HT(2) receptors are important for consolidation and recall, and 5-HT(7) receptors are involved in all three phases. Importantly, we have validated our pharmacological results with genetic experiments and showed that hypomorph strains for 5-HT(2)Dro and 5-HT(1B)Dro receptors, as well as knockdown of 5-HT(7)Dro mRNA, significantly impair performance in short-term memory. Our data highlight the importance of the serotonin system and individual serotonin receptors to influence olfactory learning and memory in the fly, and position the fly as a model system to study the role of serotonin in cognitive processes relevant to mammalian CNS function.

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