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Front Mol Neurosci. 2018 Feb 5;11:25. doi: 10.3389/fnmol.2018.00025. eCollection 2018.

High Throughput Measurement of Locomotor Sensitization to Volatilized Cocaine in Drosophila melanogaster.

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Department of Biotechnology, University of Rijeka, Rijeka, Croatia.


Drosophila melanogaster can be used to identify genes with novel functional roles in neuronal plasticity induced by repeated consumption of addictive drugs. Behavioral sensitization is a relatively simple behavioral output of plastic changes that occur in the brain after repeated exposures to drugs of abuse. The development of screening procedures for genes that control behavioral sensitization has stalled due to a lack of high-throughput behavioral tests that can be used in genetically tractable organism, such as Drosophila. We have developed a new behavioral test, FlyBong, which combines delivery of volatilized cocaine (vCOC) to individually housed flies with objective quantification of their locomotor activity. There are two main advantages of FlyBong: it is high-throughput and it allows for comparisons of locomotor activity of individual flies before and after single or multiple exposures. At the population level, exposure to vCOC leads to transient and concentration-dependent increase in locomotor activity, representing sensitivity to an acute dose. A second exposure leads to further increase in locomotion, representing locomotor sensitization. We validate FlyBong by showing that locomotor sensitization at either the population or individual level is absent in the mutants for circadian genes period (per), Clock (Clk), and cycle (cyc). The locomotor sensitization that is present in timeless (tim) and pigment dispersing factor (pdf) mutant flies is in large part not cocaine specific, but derived from increased sensitivity to warm air. Circadian genes are not only integral part of the neural mechanism that is required for development of locomotor sensitization, but in addition, they modulate the intensity of locomotor sensitization as a function of the time of day. Motor-activating effects of cocaine are sexually dimorphic and require a functional dopaminergic transporter. FlyBong is a new and improved method for inducing and measuring locomotor sensitization to cocaine in individual Drosophila. Because of its high-throughput nature, FlyBong can be used in genetic screens or in selection experiments aimed at the unbiased identification of functional genes involved in acute or chronic effects of volatilized psychoactive substances.


Drosophila melanogaster; addiction; circadian genes; cocaine; locomotor activity; locomotor sensitization; neuronal plasticity

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