Effects of inhibiting mTOR with rapamycin on behavior, development, neuromuscular physiology and cardiac function in larval Drosophila

Samuel Potter, Jacob Sifers, Emily Yocom, Sandra L.E. Blümich, Rachel Potter, Jeremy Nadolski, Douglas A. Harrison, Robin L. Cooper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Rapamycin and other mTOR inhibitors are being heralded as possible treatments for many human ailments. It is currently being utilized clinically as an immunomodulator after transplantation procedures and as a treatment for certain forms of cancer, but it has numerous potential clinical indications. Some studies have shown profound effects on life cycle and muscle physiology, but these issues have not been addressed in an organism undergoing developmental processes. This paper fills this void by examining the effect of mTOR inhibition by rapamycin on several different qualities of larval Drosophila. Various dosages of the compound were fed to second instar larvae. These larvae were monitored for pupae formation to elucidate possible life cycle effects, and a delay to pupation was quantified. Behavioral deficits were documented in rapamycin-treated larvae. Electrophysiological measurements were taken to discern changes in muscle physiology and synaptic signaling (i.e. resting membrane potential, amplitude of excitatory post-synaptic potentials, synaptic facilitation). Pupation delay and effects on behavior that are likely due to synaptic alterations within the central nervous system were discovered in rapamycin-fed larvae. These results allow for several conclusions as to how mTOR inhibition by rapamycin affects a developing organism. This could eventually allow for a more informed decision when using rapamycin and other mTOR inhibitors to treat human diseases, especially in children and adolescents, to account for known side effects.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8
JournalBiology Open
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by a G. Ribble fellowship from the Department of Biology, University of Kentucky (S.P.) and a summer research undergraduate fellowship from the Outreach Center for Science and Health Career Opportunities at the University of Kentucky (S.P.). J.S. and E.Y. were supported by a Kentucky IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence grant (#P20GM103436) and by personal funds (R.L.C.).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd


  • Behavior
  • Heart
  • Skeletal muscle
  • Synapse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (all)


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