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Physiol Rev. 1996 Apr;76(2):299-317.

Physiology and biochemistry of Drosophila learning mutants.

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Department of Cell Biology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, USA.


Single gene mutants of Drosophila that are defective in learning/memory processes have increased substantially our understanding of the physiology, biochemistry, and anatomy underlying conditioned behaviors. Drosophila learning mutants can be separated into two general classes, those with structural defects in the brain and those without (conditioning mutants) any obvious brain alterations. From studies of brain structural mutants, two neuroanatomic areas have merged as important for normal conditioned behavior: the mushroom bodies and the central complex. Biochemical and molecular genetic studies of the conditioning mutants have implicated numerous types of molecules in learning, but the adenosine 3',5'-cyclic monophosphate (cAMP) second messenger pathway has emerged as especially important. Five different genes in this pathway, amnesiac (a product similar to adenylate cyclase activating peptides), dunce (cAMP phosophodiesterase), rutabaga (adenylyl cyclase), DCO (protein kinase A), and dCREB2 (cAMP-response element binding protein), have proven important for normal learning. The products of many of these learning mutants are enriched in mushroom bodies, which highlight the importance of mushroom bodies for normal learning and the cAMP second messenger cascade for the physiology of mushroom body cells in their role(s) underlying learning. Physiological studies of the mutants have demonstrated that plastic properties of synaptic transmission, including facilitation and posttetanic potentiation, are abnormal in the mutants. An appendix describing the currently used paradigms to test Drosophila behavior is included.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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