Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences

Committee Chair

J. Stephen Lodmell

Commitee Members

Darrell Jackson, Fernando Cardozo-Pelaez, Chris Comer


University of Montana


Survival and reproduction in the natural world requires an organism to identify and react to the presence of environmental stimuli in a time and cue dependent manner. Such temporal specificity requires the development and use of specialized sensory organs that receive this external sensory information. Neurons within the specialized sensory organs respond to touch, taste, pheromones, chemicals, and light, and transduce this information to the central brain. In many systems, gustatory and olfactory chemosensation in particular, provides critical information regarding sex and species identification as well as the status of food resources. The output of neurons which receive chemical information is regulated by the action of biogenic amines, including serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. In this dissertation I examined the role of octopamine (the invertebrate structural homologue of norepinephrine) signaling in the regulation of two behaviors required for survival and reproduction; aggression and courtship.

In chapter II, I, along with my colleagues, demonstrate that neurons bearing the taste receptor Gr32a form putative synapses with octopamine neurons within the subesophageal zone, and that octopamine neurons promote male aggression and courtship behavior. These findings help to explain how an organism selects appropriate behavioral responses when confronted with the pheromonal signals of a rival male.

In chapter III, I examined the effects of octopamine signaling on taste sensitization. In this section, I examined the distribution and function of neurons that express the Oaβ1R receptor, and found that these neurons are sugar sensitive. As the presence of a food source is known to be a major contributor to the generation of aggressive and courtship behavior, these findings imply a mechanism by which exposure to an environmental stimulus or changes in internal octopamine signaling may sensitize a particular form of sensory input.



© Copyright 2016 Jonathan C. Andrews