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Dopamine neurotransmission accounts for a number of important brain functions across species including memory formation, the anticipation of reward, cognitive facilities, and drug addiction. Despite this functional significance, relatively little is known of the cellular pathways associated with drug-induced molecular adaptations within individual neurons. Due to its genetic tractability, simplicity, and economy of scale, Drosophila melanogaster has become an important tool in the study of neurological disease states, including drug addiction. To facilitate high-resolution functional analyses of dopamine signaling, it is highly advantageous to obtain genetic material, such as RNA or protein, from a homogeneous cell source. This process can be particularly challenging in most organisms including small model system organisms such as Drosophila melanogaster. Magnetic bead-based cell sorting has emerged as a powerful tool that can be used to isolate select populations of cells, from a whole organism or tissue such as the brain, for genomic as well as proteomic expression profiling. Coupled with the temporal and spatial specificity of the GAL4/UAS system, we demonstrate the application of magnetic bead-based cell sorting towards the isolation of dopaminergic neurons from the Drosophila adult nervous system. RNA derived from these neurons is of high quality and suitable for downstream applications such as microarray expression profiling or quantitative rtPCR. The versatility of this methodology stems from the fact that the cell-specific isolation method employed can be used under a variety of experimental conditions designed to survey molecular adaptations in dopamine signaling neurons including in response to drugs of abuse.


Eswar Prasad R Iyer, Srividya Chandramouli Iyer, Daniel N Cox. Application of cell-specific isolation to the study of dopamine signaling in Drosophila. Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.). 2013;964:215-25

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PMID: 23296786

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