Excitatory amino acid transporters (EAATs) are membrane proteins involved in the uptake of neurotransmitter amino acids in the nervous system. The Drosophila dEAAT2 gene was previously described to encode a taurine/aspartate transporter. To analyze further the expression pattern and physiological function of this protein, we generated transgenic flies containing either the dEAAT2 promoter region fused to GAL4 (dEAAT2-GAL4) or a transgene allowing expression of a dEAAT2::GFP fusion protein (UAS-dEAAT2::GFP). We observed that dEAAT2-GAL4 expresses green fluorescent protein (GFP) in neurons in central and peripheral structures of third-instar larvae and adult flies. Labeled neurons were found in olfactory and gustatory pathways, in which dEAAT2::GFP was detected from the dendrites of the sensory neurons up to the first- and second-order centers. dEAAT2-GAL4 is also expressed in mechanosensory neurons. We found that a viable piggyBac insertion strain disrupts dEAAT2 expression. This mutant appears morphologically normal and presents no locomotor or phototaxis impairments; however, its brain taurine level is significantly reduced compared with that of wild-type flies. The dEAAT2 mutant showed decreased avoidance behavior in the presence of high concentration of propionic acid compared with wild-type flies, but no modification of the avoidance response to benzaldehyde. In gustatory tests, both mutant and control flies were normally attracted to sucrose; however, the dEAAT2 mutant presented a higher salt sensitivity, being repulsed by low and high salt concentrations. Therefore, we conclude that dEAAT2 does function as a taurine transporter in vivo and that this protein is physiologically required for the sensory perception of specific environmental molecules.
- Drosophila nervous system
- Excitatory amino acid transporters
- Sensory systems
ASJC Scopus subject areas