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Friday, June 14, 2013

The pre-synaptic Munc13-1 binds alcohol and modulates alcohol self-administration in Drosophila

Munc13-1 is a pre-synaptic active-zone protein essential for neurotransmitter release and involved in pre-synaptic plasticity in brain.

Ethanol, butanol, and octanol quenched the intrinsic fluorescence of the C1 domain of Munc13-1 with EC50s of 52 mM, 26 mM, and 0.7 mM, respectively. Photoactive azialcohols photolabeled Munc13-1 C1 exclusively at Glu-582, which was identified by mass spectrometry. Mutation of Glu-582 to alanine, leucine, and histidine reduced the alcohol binding two- to five-fold. Circular dichroism studies suggested that binding of alcohol increased the stability of the wild-type Munc13-1 compared with the mutants.

If Munc13-1 plays some role in the neural effects of alcohol in vivo, changes in the activity of this protein should produce differences in the behavioral responses to ethanol.

We tested this prediction with a loss-of-function mutation in the conserved Dunc-13 in Drosophila melanogaster. The Dunc-13P84200/+ heterozygotes have 50% wild-type levels of Dunc-13 mRNA and display a very robust increase in ethanol self-administration. This phenotype is reversed by the expression of the rat Munc13-1 protein within the Drosophila nervous system.

The present studies indicate that Munc13-1 C1 has binding site(s) for alcohols and Munc13-1 activity is sufficient to restore normal self-administration to Drosophila mutants deficient in Dunc-13 activity.

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