Hiroshi D. Akashi, Pei-Ju Chen, Tokiho Akiyama, Yohey Terai, Motohiro Wakakuwa, Yasunori Takayama, Makoto Tominaga, and Kentaro Arikawa
Histamine is the only known neurotransmitter released by arthropod photoreceptors. Synaptic transmission from photoreceptors to second order neurons is mediated by the activation of histamine-gated chloride channels (HCLs). These histaminergic synapses have been assumed to be conserved among insect visual systems. However, our understanding of the channels in question has thus far been based on studies in flies. In the butterfly Papilio xuthus, we have identified two candidate histamine-gated chloride channels, PxHCLA and PxHCLB, and studied their physiological properties using a whole-cell patch-clamp technique. We studied the responses of channels expressed in cultured cells to histamine as well as to other neurotransmitter candidates, namely GABA, tyramine, serotonin, D-/L- glutamate, and glycine. We found that histamine and GABA activated both PxHCLA and PxHCLB, while the other molecules did not. The sensitivity to histamine and GABA was consistently higher in PxHCLB than in PxHCLA. Interestingly, simultaneous application of histamine and GABA activated both PxHCLA and PxHCLB more strongly than either neurotansmitter individually; histamine and GABA may have synergistic effects on PxHCLs in the regions where they colocalize. Our results suggest that the physiological properties of the histamine receptors are basically conserved among insects, but that the response to GABA differs between butterflies and flies, implying variation in early visual processing among species.