The cyclic AMP system and Drosophila learning

Ronald L. Davis, Jim Cherry, Brigitte Dauwalder, Pyung Lim Han, Efthimios Skoulakis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

130 Scopus citations


The cyclic AMP (cAMP) system plays a critical role in olfactory learning in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, as evidenced by the following: [1] The dunce gene encodes a form of cAMP phosphodiesterase (PDE). Flies carrying mutations at this gene show reduced PDE activity, high cAMP levels, and deficits in olfactory learning and memory [2]. The rutabaga gene encodes one type of adenylyl cyclase (AC) similar in properties to the Type I AC characterized from vertebrate brain. This enzyme is activated by G-protein and Ca++ and has been postulated to be a molecular coincidence detector, capable of integrating information from two independent sources such as the conditioned stimulus (CS) and the unconditioned stimulus (US) delivered to animals during Pavlovian conditioning. Rutabaga mutant flies are deficient in AC activity and show behavioral defects similar to those exhibited by dunce mutants [3]. Flies carrying mutations in the gene (DC0) that encodes the catalytic subunit of protein kinase A (PKA), the major mediator of cAMP actions, show alterations in learning performance and a loss in PKA activity. All three genes are expressed preferentially in mushroom bodies, neuroanatomical sites that mediate olfactory learning. Interestingly, the PDE and the catalytic subunit of PKA are found primarily in axonal and dendritic compartments of the mushroom body cells, whereas the AC is found primarily in the axonal compartment. The reason for this differential compartmentalization is unclear, although the hypothetical role of AC as coincidence detector would predict that CS and US stimuli are integrated in the axonal compartment. These observations suggest that cAMP is a dominant second messenger utilized by mushroom body cells to modulate their physiology while the animal is learning and consolidating memory. However, many other types of molecules are likely involved in the physiological alterations that occur in these cells during learning, including cell surface proteins, transcription factors, and synaptic proteins.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)271-278
Number of pages8
JournalMolecular and Cellular Biochemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 1995


  • adenylyl cyclase
  • cyclic AMP
  • dunce
  • phosphodiesterase
  • protein kinase A
  • rutabaga


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