A map of octopaminergic neurons in the Drosophila brain

Sebastian Busch, Mareike Selcho, Kei Ito, Hiromu Tanimoto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

163 Citations (Scopus)


The biogenic amine octopamine modulates diverse behaviors in invertebrates. At the single neuron level, the mode of action is well understood in the peripheral nervous system owing to its simple structure and accessibility. For elucidating the role of individual octopaminergic neurons in the modulation of complex behaviors, a detailed analysis of the connectivity in the central nervous system is required. Here we present a comprehensive anatomical map of candidate octopaminergic neurons in the adult Drosophila brain: including the supra- and subesophageal ganglia. Application of the Flp-out technique enabled visualization of 27 types of individual octopaminergic neurons. Based on their morphology and distribution of genetic markers, we found that most octopaminergic neurons project to multiple brain structures with a clear separation of dendritic and presynaptic regions. Whereas their major dendrites are confined to specific brain regions, each cell type targets different, yet defined, neuropils distributed throughout the central nervous system. This would allow them to constitute combinatorial modules assigned to the modulation of distinct neuronal processes. The map may provide an anatomical framework for the functional constitution of the octopaminergic system. It also serves as a model for the single-cell organization of a particular neurotransmitter in the brain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)643-667
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Apr 20


  • Insect brain
  • Neural circuit
  • Neuroanatomy
  • Octopamine
  • Single-cell morphology


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