Daphnia magna and Daphnia pulex are well-established model organisms in the fields of ecotoxicology and toxicogenomics. Among the many assays used for determining the effects of environmental and anthropogenic stressors on these animals is monitoring for changes in their phototactic behavior. In most arthropods, histamine has been shown to play a key role in the visual system. Currently, nothing is known about histaminergic signaling in either D. magna or D. pulex. Here, a combination of immunohistochemistry and genome mining was used to identify and characterize the histaminergic systems in these daphnids. In addition, a behavioral assay was used to assess the role of histamine in their phototactic response to ultraviolet (UV) light exposure. An extensive network of histaminergic somata, axons and neuropil was identified via immunohistochemistry within the central nervous system of both daphnids, including labeling of putative photoreceptors in the compound eye and projections from these cells to the brain. Mining of the D. pulex genome using known Drosophila melanogaster proteins identified a putative ortholog of histidine decarboxylase (the rate-limiting biosynthetic enzyme for histamine), as well as two putative histamine-gated chloride channels (hclA and hclB orthologs). Exposure of D. magna to cimetidine, an H2 receptor antagonist known to block both hclA and hclB in D. melanogaster, inhibited their negative phototactic response to UV exposure in a reversible, time-dependent manner. Taken collectively, our results show that an extensive histaminergic system is present in Daphnia species, including the visual system, and that this amine is involved in the control of phototaxis in these animals
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