A third copy of the Down syndrome cell adhesion molecule (Dscam) causes synaptic and locomotor dysfunction in Drosophila

Simon A. Lowe, James J.L. Hodge*, Maria M. Usowicz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Down syndrome (DS) is caused by triplication of chromosome 21 (HSA21). It is characterised by intellectual disability and impaired motor coordination that arise from changes in brain volume, structure and function. However, the contribution of each HSA21 gene to these various phenotypes and to the causal alterations in neuronal and synaptic structure and function are largely unknown. Here we have investigated the effect of overexpression of the HSA21 gene DSCAM (Down syndrome cell adhesion molecule), on glutamatergic synaptic transmission and motor coordination, using Drosophila expressing three copies of Dscam1. Electrophysiological recordings of miniature and evoked excitatory junction potentials at the glutamatergic neuromuscular junction of Drosophila larvae showed that the extra copy of Dscam1 changed the properties of spontaneous and electrically-evoked transmitter release and strengthened short-term synaptic depression during high-frequency firing of the motor nerve. Behavioural analyses uncovered impaired locomotor coordination despite preserved gross motor function. This work identifies DSCAM as a candidate causative gene in DS that is sufficient to modify synaptic transmission and synaptic plasticity and cause a DS behavioural phenotype.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-101
Number of pages9
JournalNeurobiology of Disease
Early online date28 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018

Bibliographical note



  • Down syndrome
  • Drosophila
  • Locomotion
  • Synaptic transmission


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