Influence of PCPA and MDMA (ecstasy) on physiology, development and behavior in Drosophila melanogaster

Sameera Dasari, Kert Viele, A. Clay Turner, Robin L. Cooper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


The effects of para-chlorophenylalanine (PCPA) and 3,4 methylenedioxy- methamphetamine (MDMA, 'ecstasy') were investigated in relation to development, behavior and physiology in larval Drosophila. PCPA blocks the synthesis of serotonin (5-HT) and MDMA is known to deplete 5-HT in mammalian neurons; thus these studies were conducted primarily to target the serotonergic system. Treatment with PCPA and MDMA delayed time to pupation and eclosion. The developmental rate was investigated with a survival analysis statistical approach that is unique for Drosophila studies. Locomotion and eating were reduced in animals exposed to MDMA or PCPA. Sensitivity to exogenously applied 5-HT on an evoked sensory-central nervous system (CNS)-motor circuit showed that the CNS is sensitive to 5-HT but that when depleted of 5-HT by PCPA a decreased sensitivity occurred. A diet with MDMA produced an enhanced response to exogenous 5-HT on the central circuit. Larvae eating MDMA from the first to third instar did not show a reduction in 5-HT within the CNS; however, eating PCPA reduced 5-HT as well as dopamine content as measured by high performance liquid chromatography from larval brains. As the heart serves as a good bioindex of 5-HT exposure, it was used in larvae fed PCPA and MDMA but no significant effects occurred with exogenous 5-HT. In summary, the action of these pharmacological compounds altered larval behaviors and development. PCPA treatment changed the sensitivity in the CNS to 5-HT, suggesting that 5-HT receptor regulation is modulated by neural activity of the serotonergic neurons. The actions of acute MDMA exposure suggest a 5-HT agonist action or possible dumping of 5-HT from neurons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)424-438
Number of pages15
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2007


  • CNS
  • Dopamine
  • Drugs of abuse
  • Ecstasy
  • MDMA
  • PCPA
  • Synapse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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