Acetylcholine/dopamine interaction in planaria

Francesca R. Buttarelli, Francesco E. Pontieri, Vito Margotta, Guido Palladini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Planaria represents the most primitive example of centralization and cephalization of nervous system. Previous reports indicate that planaria shows specific behavioral patterns, analogous to mammalian stereotypes, in response to drugs acting on acetylcholine or dopamine transmission. Here we further characterized these responses, and investigated the interactions between cholinergic and dopaminergic systems by means of behavioral methods. Exposure to cholinergic agonists physostigmine or nicotine produced hypokinesia with 'bridge-like' and 'walnut' positions, respectively. Blockade of muscarinic receptors by atropine produced 'screw-like' hyperkinesia. Exposure to dopamine agonists (nomifensine, apomorphine) produced marked hyperkinesia with 'screw-like' movements. Finally, exposure to dopamine antagonists produced immobility or 'bridge-like' position. Pre-exposure to physostigmine blocked the behavioral effects of nomifensine and reduced and markedly delayed the behavioral effects of apomorphine. Pre-exposure to apomorphine slightly reduced and delayed the behavioral changes by physostigmine. Finally, planaria exposed to atropine after either SCH23388 or sulpiride showed 'C-like' or 'screw-like' hyperkinesia, respectively. Thus, reduction of cholinergic transmission seems to play a pivotal role in determining hyperkinesia in planaria. Under these conditions, different patterns of hyperkinetic activities occur, according to the subpopulation of dopamine receptors stimulated by drugs. These findings suggest that interactions between cholinergic and dopaminergic systems occur very early in animal phylogeny. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Inc.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-231
Number of pages7
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology - C Pharmacology Toxicology and Endocrinology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2000


  • Acetylcholine
  • Behavior
  • Dopamine
  • Hyperkinesia
  • Hypokinesia
  • Invertebrates
  • Nervous system
  • Phylogeny
  • Planaria

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Immunology
  • Pharmacology


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