The metabolism of histamine in the Drosophila optic lobe involves an ommatidial pathway: beta-alanine recycles through the retina
Borycz, J. A.
Edwards, T. N.
Boulianne, G. L.
Meinertzhagen, I. A.
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Flies recycle the photoreceptor neurotransmitter histamine by conjugating it to beta-alanine to form beta-alanyl-histamine (carcinine). The conjugation is regulated by Ebony, while Tan hydrolyses carcinine, releasing histamine and beta-alanine. In Drosophila, beta-alanine synthesis occurs either from uracil or from the decarboxylation of aspartate but detailed roles for the enzymes responsible remain unclear. Immunohistochemically detected beta-alanine is present throughout the fly's entire brain, and is enhanced in the retina especially in the pseudocone, pigment and photoreceptor cells of the ommatidia. HPLC determinations reveal 10.7 ng of beta-alanine in the wild-type head, roughly five times more than histamine. When wild-type flies drink uracil their head beta-alanine increases more than after drinking l-aspartic acid, indicating the effectiveness of the uracil pathway. Mutants of black, which lack aspartate decarboxylase, cannot synthesize beta-alanine from l-aspartate but can still synthesize it efficiently from uracil. Our findings demonstrate a novel function for pigment cells, which not only screen ommatidia from stray light but also store and transport beta-alanine and carcinine. This role is consistent with a beta-alanine-dependent histamine recycling pathway occurring not only in the photoreceptor terminals in the lamina neuropile, where carcinine occurs in marginal glia, but vertically via a long pathway that involves the retina. The lamina's marginal glia are also a hub involved in the storage and/or disposal of carcinine and beta-alanine.
Borycz, J., J. A. Borycz, T. N. Edwards, G. L. Boulianne, et al. 2012. "The metabolism of histamine in the Drosophila optic lobe involves an ommatidial pathway: beta-alanine recycles through the retina." The Journal of experimental biology 215(Pt 8): 1399-1411.