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The biogenic amine serotonin (5-HT) is a neuromodulator in both vertebrates and invertebrates. It has been shown that serotonin, apart from its distinct effects on behavior, also plays a morphoregulatory role during the ontogeny of the insect's nervous system. The role of serotonin in modulating circadian locomotor activity of the blow fly, Calliphora vicina was explored. Injection of a specific neurotoxin, 5,7-dihydroxytryptamine (5,7-DHT), into the hemolymph appeared to significantly reduced the level of locomotor activity and lengthened the period (τ) of circadian rhythmicity. After drug injection in constant darkness flies continued with their free-running rhythm of a locomotor activity, depending on the time of 5,7-DHT injection. This compound causes phase delay when administered in the early subjective day, and phase advance in the late subjective day. This effect is the opposite of the phase response curve obtained for 5-HT injections. This suggests that 5-HT might act as an entraining agent via the output pathway by feedback to clock neurons in the brain. Some of the injected insects regained their normal level of activity after a few days. These findings suggest a potential role for serotonin as modulator of circadian rhythms in insect including regulation of the level of locomotor activity.
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