Evaluation of Drosophila melanogaster as an alternative animal for studying the neurotoxicity of heavy metals

Jonathan M. Akins, Joyce A. Schroeder, Danny L. Brower, H. Vasken Aposhian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Heavy metals cause irreversible neurobehavioral damage in many developing mammals, but the mechanisms of this damage are unknown. The influence of three heavy metal compounds, triethyllead chloride, lead acetate and cadmium chloride, on lethality, development, behavior and learning was studied using the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. This animal was used because it allows hundreds of subjects to be assayed very easily in individual experiments and because it is a system in which toxicological questions might be answered by using the techniques of modern molecular genetics. When triethyllead chloride, lead acetate or cadmium chloride was placed in the medium, the larval LC50 (± standard error) was found to be 0.090±0.004, 6.60±0.64 and 0.42±0.04 mm, respectively. Each of the tested compounds produced a dose-related delay in development. In particular, they caused a delay in the development of larvae to pupae. When larvae were reared on medium containing triethyllead chloride (0.06 mm), lead acetate (3.07 mm) or cadmium chloride (0.11 mm), phototaxis, locomotion and learning were not inhibited. Since significant neurobehavioral effects were not observed under the experimental conditions used, Drosophila does not appear to be an appropriate animal for the genetic dissection of such effects of heavy metals during development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)111-120
Number of pages10
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1992


  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • evaluation
  • heavy metals
  • neurotoxicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomaterials
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Metals and Alloys


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