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94 Publications

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    10/06/06 | Increased ethanol resistance and consumption in Eps8 knockout mice correlates with altered actin dynamics.
    Offenhäuser N, Castelletti D, Mapelli L, Soppo BE, Regondi MC, Rossi P, D'Angelo E, Frassoni C, Amadeo A, Tocchetti A, Pozzi B, Disanza A, Guarnieri D, Betsholtz C, Scita G, Heberlein U, Di Fiore PP
    Cell. 2006 Oct 6;127(1):213-26. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2006.09.011

    Dynamic modulation of the actin cytoskeleton is critical for synaptic plasticity, abnormalities of which are thought to contribute to mental illness and addiction. Here we report that mice lacking Eps8, a regulator of actin dynamics, are resistant to some acute intoxicating effects of ethanol and show increased ethanol consumption. In the brain, the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor is a major target of ethanol. We show that Eps8 is localized to postsynaptic structures and is part of the NMDA receptor complex. Moreover, in Eps8 null mice, NMDA receptor currents and their sensitivity to inhibition by ethanol are abnormal. In addition, Eps8 null neurons are resistant to the actin-remodeling activities of NMDA and ethanol. We propose that proper regulation of the actin cytoskeleton is a key determinant of cellular and behavioral responses to ethanol.

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    10/07/05 | GPCR signaling is required for blood-brain barrier formation in drosophila.
    Schwabe T, Bainton RJ, Fetter RD, Heberlein U, Gaul U
    Cell. 2005 Oct 7;123(1):133-44. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2005.08.037

    The blood-brain barrier of Drosophila is established by surface glia, which ensheath the nerve cord and insulate it against the potassium-rich hemolymph by forming intercellular septate junctions. The mechanisms underlying the formation of this barrier remain obscure. Here, we show that the G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) Moody, the G protein subunits G alpha i and G alpha o, and the regulator of G protein signaling Loco are required in the surface glia to achieve effective insulation. Our data suggest that the four proteins act in a complex common pathway. At the cellular level, the components function by regulating the cortical actin and thereby stabilizing the extended morphology of the surface glia, which in turn is necessary for the formation of septate junctions of sufficient length to achieve proper sealing of the nerve cord. Our study demonstrates the importance of morphogenetic regulation in blood-brain barrier development and places GPCR signaling at its core.

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    10/07/05 | Moody encodes two GPCRs that regulate cocaine behaviors and blood-brain barrier permeability in Drosophila.
    Bainton RJ, Tsai LT, Schwabe T, DeSalvo M, Gaul U, Heberlein U
    Cell. 2005 Oct 7;123(1):145-56. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2005.07.029

    We identified moody in a genetic screen for Drosophila mutants with altered cocaine sensitivity. Hypomorphic mutations in moody cause an increased sensitivity to cocaine and nicotine exposure. In contrast, sensitivity to the acute intoxicating effects of ethanol is reduced. The moody locus encodes two novel GPCRs, Moody-alpha and Moody-beta. While identical in their membrane-spanning domains, the two Moody proteins differ in their long carboxy-terminal domains, which are generated by use of alternative reading frames. Both Moody forms are required for normal cocaine sensitivity, suggesting that they carry out distinct but complementary functions. Moody-alpha and Moody-beta are coexpressed in surface glia that surround the nervous system, where they are actively required to maintain the integrity of the blood-brain barrier in the adult fly. We propose that a Moody-mediated signaling pathway functions in glia to regulate nervous system insulation and drug-related behaviors.

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    08/11/05 | The hangover gene defines a stress pathway required for ethanol tolerance development.
    Scholz H, Franz M, Heberlein U
    Nature. 2005 Aug 11;436(7052):845-7. doi: 10.1038/nature03864

    Repeated alcohol consumption leads to the development of tolerance, simply defined as an acquired resistance to the physiological and behavioural effects of the drug. This tolerance allows increased alcohol consumption, which over time leads to physical dependence and possibly addiction. Previous studies have shown that Drosophila develop ethanol tolerance, with kinetics of acquisition and dissipation that mimic those seen in mammals. This tolerance requires the catecholamine octopamine, the functional analogue of mammalian noradrenaline. Here we describe a new gene, hangover, which is required for normal development of ethanol tolerance. hangover flies are also defective in responses to environmental stressors, such as heat and the free-radical-generating agent paraquat. Using genetic epistasis tests, we show that ethanol tolerance in Drosophila relies on two distinct molecular pathways: a cellular stress pathway defined by hangover, and a parallel pathway requiring octopamine. hangover encodes a large nuclear zinc-finger protein, suggesting a role in nucleic acid binding. There is growing recognition that stress, at both the cellular and systemic levels, contributes to drug- and addiction-related behaviours in mammals. Our studies suggest that this role may be conserved across evolution.

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    01/01/05 | Insulin signaling in the nervous system regulates ethanol intoxication in Drosophila melanogaster.
    Corl AB, Rodan AR, Heberlein U
    Nature Neuroscience. 2005 Jan;8(1):18-9. doi: 10.1038/nn1363

    The insulin signaling pathway regulates multiple physiological processes, including energy metabolism, organismal growth, aging and reproduction. Here we show that genetic manipulations in Drosophila melanogaster that impair the function of insulin-producing cells or of the insulin-receptor signaling pathway in the nervous system lead to increased sensitivity to the intoxicating effects of ethanol. These findings suggest a previously unknown role for this highly conserved pathway in regulating the behavioral responses to an addictive drug.

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    12/01/04 | Lmo mutants reveal a novel role for circadian pacemaker neurons in cocaine-induced behaviors.
    Tsai LT, Bainton RJ, Blau J, Heberlein U
    PLoS Biology. 2004 Dec;2(12):e408. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0020408

    Drosophila has been developed recently as a model system to investigate the molecular and neural mechanisms underlying responses to drugs of abuse. Genetic screens for mutants with altered drug-induced behaviors thus provide an unbiased approach to define novel molecules involved in the process. We identified mutations in the Drosophila LIM-only (LMO) gene, encoding a regulator of LIM-homeodomain proteins, in a genetic screen for mutants with altered cocaine sensitivity. Reduced Lmo function increases behavioral responses to cocaine, while Lmo overexpression causes the opposite effect, reduced cocaine responsiveness. Expression of Lmo in the principal Drosophila circadian pacemaker cells, the PDF-expressing ventral lateral neurons (LN(v)s), is sufficient to confer normal cocaine sensitivity. Consistent with a role for Lmo in LN(v)function,Lmomutants also show defects in circadian rhythms of behavior. However, the role for LN(v)s in modulating cocaine responses is separable from their role as pacemaker neurons: ablation or functional silencing of the LN(v)s reduces cocaine sensitivity, while loss of the principal circadian neurotransmitter PDF has no effect. Together, these results reveal a novel role for Lmo in modulating acute cocaine sensitivity and circadian locomotor rhythmicity, and add to growing evidence that these behaviors are regulated by shared molecular mechanisms. The finding that the degree of cocaine responsiveness is controlled by the Drosophila pacemaker neurons provides a neuroanatomical basis for this overlap. We propose that Lmo controls the responsiveness of LN(v)s to cocaine, which in turn regulate the flies’ behavioral sensitivity to the drug.

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    10/01/04 | Rapid and chronic: two distinct forms of ethanol tolerance in Drosophila.
    Berger KH, Heberlein U, Moore MS
    Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research. 2004 Oct;28(10):1469-80

    BACKGROUND: Ethanol tolerance, defined as a reduction in the intensity of the effects of ethanol upon continuous or repeated exposure, is a hallmark of alcoholism. Tolerance may develop at the cellular or neural systems levels. The molecular changes underlying ethanol tolerance are not well understood. We therefore explored the utility of Drosophila, with its accessibility to genetic, molecular, and behavioral analyses, as a model organism to study tolerance development in response to different ethanol-exposure regimens.

    METHODS: We describe a new assay that quantifies recovery from ethanol intoxication in Drosophila. Using this recovery assay, we define ethanol pre-exposure paradigms that lead to the development of tolerance. We also use the inebriometer, an assay that measures the onset of intoxication, to study the effects of pharmacological and genetic manipulations on tolerance development.

    RESULTS: We show that flies develop different forms of ethanol tolerance: rapid tolerance, induced by a single short exposure to a high concentration of ethanol, and chronic tolerance, elicited by prolonged exposure to a low concentration of the drug. Neither rapid nor chronic tolerance involves changes in ethanol pharmacokinetics, implying that they represent functional rather than dispositional tolerance. Chronic and rapid tolerance can be distinguished mechanistically: chronic tolerance is disrupted by treatment with the protein synthesis inhibitor cycloheximide, whereas rapid tolerance is resistant to this treatment. Furthermore, rapid and chronic tolerance rely on distinct genetic pathways: a mutant defective for octopamine biosynthesis shows reduced rapid tolerance but normal chronic tolerance.

    CONCLUSIONS: Flies, like mammals, develop tolerance in response to different ethanol-exposure regimens, and this tolerance affects both the onset of and the recovery from acute intoxication. Two forms of tolerance, rapid and chronic, are mechanistically distinct, because they can be dissociated genetically and pharmacologically.

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    08/01/04 | Molecular Genetic Analysis of Ethanol Intoxication in Drosophila melanogaster.
    Heberlein U, Wolf FW, Rothenfluh A, Guarnieri DJ
    Integrative and Comparative Biology. 2004 Aug;44(4):269-74. doi: 10.1093/icb/44.4.269

    Recently, the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster has been introduced as a model system to study the molecular bases of a variety of ethanol-induced behaviors. It became immediately apparent that the behavioral changes elicited by acute ethanol exposure are remarkably similar in flies and mammals. Flies show signs of acute intoxication, which range from locomotor stimulation at low doses to complete sedation at higher doses and they develop tolerance upon intermittent ethanol exposure. Genetic screens for mutants with altered responsiveness to ethanol have been carried out and a few of the disrupted genes have been identified. This analysis, while still in its early stages, has already revealed some surprising molecular parallels with mammals. The availability of powerful tools for genetic manipulation in Drosophila, together with the high degree of conservation at the genomic level, make Drosophila a promising model organism to study the mechanism by which ethanol regulates behavior and the mechanisms underlying the organism's adaptation to long-term ethanol exposure.

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    06/01/04 | Habituation of an odorant-induced startle response in Drosophila.
    Cho W, Heberlein U, Wolf FW
    Genes, Brain, and Behavior. 2004 Jun;3(3):127-37. doi: 10.1111/j.1601-183x.2004.00061.x

    Habituation is a fundamental form of behavioral plasticity that permits organisms to ignore inconsequential stimuli. Here we describe the habituation of a locomotor response to ethanol and other odorants in Drosophila, measured by an automated high-throughput locomotor tracking system. Flies exhibit an immediate and transient startle response upon exposure to a novel odor. Surgical removal of the antennae, the fly's major olfactory organs, abolishes this startle response. With repeated discrete exposures to ethanol vapor, the startle response habituates. Habituation is reversible by a mechanical stimulus and is not due to the accumulation of ethanol in the organism, nor to non-specific mechanisms. Ablation or inactivation of the mushroom bodies, central brain structures involved in olfactory and courtship conditioning, results in decreased olfactory habituation. In addition, olfactory habituation to ethanol generalizes to odorants that activate separate olfactory receptors. Finally, habituation is impaired in rutabaga, an adenylyl cyclase mutant isolated based on a defect in olfactory associative learning. These data demonstrate that olfactory habituation operates, at least in part, through central mechanisms. This novel model of olfactory habituation in freely moving Drosophila provides a scalable method for studying the molecular and neural bases of this simple and ubiquitous form of learning.

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    12/01/03 | Tre1, a G protein-coupled receptor, directs transepithelial migration of Drosophila germ cells.
    Kunwar PS, Starz-Gaiano M, Bainton RJ, Heberlein U, Lehmann R
    PLoS Biology. 2003 Dec;1(3):E80. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0000080

    In most organisms, germ cells are formed distant from the somatic part of the gonad and thus have to migrate along and through a variety of tissues to reach the gonad. Transepithelial migration through the posterior midgut (PMG) is the first active step during Drosophila germ cell migration. Here we report the identification of a novel G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR), Tre1, that is essential for this migration step. Maternal tre1 RNA is localized to germ cells, and tre1 is required cell autonomously in germ cells. In tre1 mutant embryos, most germ cells do not exit the PMG. The few germ cells that do leave the midgut early migrate normally to the gonad, suggesting that this gene is specifically required for transepithelial migration and that mutant germ cells are still able to recognize other guidance cues. Additionally, inhibiting small Rho GTPases in germ cells affects transepithelial migration, suggesting that Tre1 signals through Rho1. We propose that Tre1 acts in a manner similar to chemokine receptors required during transepithelial migration of leukocytes, implying an evolutionarily conserved mechanism of transepithelial migration. Recently, the chemokine receptor CXCR4 was shown to direct migration in vertebrate germ cells. Thus, germ cells may more generally use GPCR signaling to navigate the embryo toward their target.

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