The behavioral and neurochemical characterization of a Drosophila dysbindin mutant supports the contribution of serotonin to schizophrenia negative symptoms

Sergio I Hidalgo Sotelo*, Christian Castro, Benjamin P Valderrama, James J L Hodge, Jorge M. Campusano*

*Corresponding author for this work

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


Mutations in the dystrobrevin binding protein 1 (DTNBP1) gene that encodes for the dysbindin-1 protein, are associated with a higher risk for schizophrenia. Interestingly, individuals carrying high-risk alleles in this gene have been associated with an increased incidence of negative symptoms for the disease, which include anhedonia, avolition and social withdrawal. Here we evaluated behavioral and neurochemical changes in a hypomorphic Drosophila mutant for the orthologue of human Dysbindin-1, dysb1.

Mutant dysb1 flies exhibit altered social space parameters, suggesting asocial behavior, accompanied by reduced olfactory performance. Moreover, dysb1 mutant flies show poor performance in basal and startle-induced locomotor activity. We also report a reduction in serotonin brain levels and changes in the expression of the Drosophila serotonin transporter (dSERT) in dysb1 flies. Our data show that the serotonin-releasing amphetamine derivative 4-methylthioamphetamine (4-MTA) modulates social spacing and locomotion in control flies, suggesting that serotonergic circuits modulate these behaviors. 4-MTA was unable to modify the behavioral deficiencies in mutant flies, which is consistent with the idea that the efficiency of pharmacological agents acting at dSERT depends on functional serotonergic circuits.

Thus, our data show that the dysb1 mutant exhibits some behavioral deficits that mirror some aspects of the endophenotypes associated with the negative symptoms of schizophrenia. We argue that at least part of the behavioral aspects associated with these symptoms could be explained by a serotonergic deficit. The dysb1 mutant presents an opportunity to study the molecular underpinnings of schizophrenia negative symptoms and reveals new potential targets for treatment of the disease.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104753
Number of pages10
JournalNeurochemistry International
Early online date13 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2020


  • dtnbp1
  • dysbindin-1
  • schizophrenia
  • negative symptoms
  • serotonergic system serotonergic system
  • Drosophila

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