Methamphetamine causes anorexia in drosophila melanogaster, exhausting metabolic reserves and contributing to mortality

Kent R. Walters, S. Indu Rupassara, R. J.Cody Markelz, Andrew D.B. Leakey, William M. Muir, Barry R. Pittendrigh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Methamphetamine (MA) appears to produce neurotoxic effects, in part, through disruptions of energy metabolism. A recent study of the whole-body proteome of Drosophila melanogaster showed many changes in energy metabolism-related proteins, leading us to hypothesize that MA toxicity may cause whole-body disruptions of energy metabolism. To test this, we monitored the response of energy reserves and other metabolites to MA-exposure with and without the addition of dietary glucose. We also monitored changes in feeding behavior, locomotor activity and respiration rates associated with MA-exposure to investigate how MA affects energy balance. We observed that glycogen and triglyceride levels decreased dramatically within 48 hr of MA-exposure, indicating a strongly negative caloric balance. Behavioral assays revealed that MA-treated flies decreased food consumption by 60-80% and exhibited a 2-fold increase in locomotion. Caloric expenditure decreased with MA-exposure, apparently due to a compensatory decrease in resting metabolism, showing that anorexia was the primary driver of the negative caloric balance. Additionally, we observed that glucose supplementation of MA-containing diet increased glycogen reserves by 44% at 48 hr, leading to a commensurate increase in survivorship. We conclude that dietary sugar supplementation enhances survivorship by partially compensating for decreased caloric intake resulting from MA-induced anorexia. The observation that MA produces similar behavioral changes in Drosophila and humans, i.e. increased locomotor activity and anorexia, further supports the use of Drosophila as a model organism for the study of the effects of MA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)773-790
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Toxicological Sciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2012


  • Anorexia
  • Feeding behavior
  • Locomotor activity
  • Metabolic rate
  • Methamphetamine
  • Toxicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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