We will identify every single neuron in the Drosophila central brain (~12,000 neurons per hemisphere) and determine its developmental origin by comprehensive cell lineage analysis. We will uncover the molecular mechanisms that specify individual neurons’ fates. We will develop further sophisticated genetic tools that allow one to modulate specific aspects of brain development and activity to understand its design and function. We will ultimately determine if higher brains develop and operate in analogous manners.
The Drosophila central brain, including the sub-esophageal ganglion, develops from ~120 neuroblasts (NBs) per hemisphere. Each NB undergoes multiple rounds of self-renewing asymmetric cell division to deposit about 100 neurons that constitute a neural lineage. Notably, distinct neurons are born in an invariant sequence within a neural lineage. Identifying all lineages (e.g. Figure 1) and determining the neuronal sequence made by each NB will generate a complete cellular and developmental brain map. Toward this end, we have developed various genetic mosaic techniques that permit labeling of single neurons based on their developmental origin (e.g. Figure 2). One can thus identify neurons made by a common progenitor and further determine the order in which they have arisen. This way, we can sequence an entire neural lineage (e.g. Figure 3) and ultimately resolve all the lineages that constitute the brain. Having a complete cellular and developmental brain map will lay the necessary foundation for fully understanding the design and function of the brain.
To learn the molecular mechanisms that underlie the stereotyped neural lineage development would start to elucidate how the genome encodes the brain. Toward this end, we will determine the transcriptional networks that act in precursors to specify neuron fates. We will knock down one transcription factor at one time and systematically determine its consequence(s) in neural lineage development by genetic mosaics. We are keen to uncover genes that govern birth order/time-dependent neuron fate determination (e.g. Figure 4). Understanding neuronal diversification would allow one to redesign the brain and explore how the brain may evolve to increase its complexity.
We will determine:
- if there is a universal temporal code common to all lineages that specifies neuronal temporal identity,
- how neural progenitors keep track of time or count divisions to generate a stereotyped series of distinct neuronal types, and
- the molecular basis of lineage identity and how identity and temporal fating cooperate to define terminal neuronal fates.
- We will optimize twin-spot MARCM to enhance its applicability and increase the throughput. One ultimate goal is to realize use of the entire Drosophila brain as a model system for genetic molecular study of brain development and function. We will also explore how to extend the high-resolution cell lineage analysis to other species and higher model organisms.
- We will engineer diverse neural progenitor drivers that allow one to target specific progenitors for lineage-specific molecular and cellular profiling. The same set of reagents can be combined with additional genetic tricks to target specific neuron types based on lineage development for systematic dissection of brain functions.
- We envision the need for readily rewriting the genome to reprogram gene expression profiles that control neuron type compositions. We will experiment new strategies for manipulating gene expression/activity as physiologically as possible and, if needed, in complex dynamic patterns to engineer a healthy brain with novel or improved functions of one’s choice.
Tzumin Lee Group Leader
Hui-Min Chen Graduate Student
Yisheng He Research Staff
Yu-Fen Huang Research Staff
Ying-Jou Lee Research Staff
Jorge Garcia Marques Postdoctoral Associate
Rosa Miyares Postdoctoral Associate
Qingzhong Ren Postdoctoral Associate
Mark Schroeder Postdoctoral Associate
Structured process for the manual count of particles (e.g. cell bodies) in 2D and 3D images of any kind with graphical mark-up in the image.
For flexibility reasons this tool was implemented as macro-set for fiji/ImageJ (version 1.47h).
- download and decompress the file behind the download link below,
- copy the result into the 'macros' folder of your fiji/ImageJ,
- restart fiji/imageJ,
- install tool into fiji/imageJ from the menu: Plugins>Macros>Install...
Successful installation will generate two new buttons ('RGB' and '?') in fiji/imageJ.
The '?' button will display more help on the function of the tool.
Author: Arnim Jenett
Making Drosophila lineage-restricted drivers via patterned recombination in neuroblasts.Nature neuroscience 2014
T. Awasaki, C. Kao, Y. Lee, C. Yang, Y. Huang, B. D. Pfeiffer, H. Luan, X. Jing, Y. Huang, Y. He, M. Schroeder, A. Kuzin, T. Brody, C. T. Zugates, W. F. Odenwald, and T. Lee Nature neuroscience, (2014)
The Drosophila cerebrum originates from about 100 neuroblasts per hemisphere, with each neuroblast producing a characteristic set of neurons. Neurons from a neuroblast are often so diverse that many neuron types remain unexplored. We developed new genetic tools that target neuroblasts and their diverse descendants, increasing our ability to study fly brain structure and development. Common enhancer-based drivers label neurons on the basis of terminal identities rather than origins, which provides limited labeling in the heterogeneous neuronal lineages. We successfully converted conventional drivers that are temporarily expressed in neuroblasts, into drivers expressed in all subsequent neuroblast progeny. One technique involves immortalizing GAL4 expression in neuroblasts and their descendants. Another depends on loss of the GAL4 repressor, GAL80, from neuroblasts during early neurogenesis. Furthermore, we expanded the diversity of MARCM-based reagents and established another site-specific mitotic recombination system. Our transgenic tools can be combined to map individual neurons in specific lineages of various genotypes.
Drosophila intermediate neural progenitors produce lineage-dependent related series of diverse neurons.Development (Cambridge, England) 2014
Y. Wang, J. S. Yang, R. Johnston, Q. Ren, Y. Lee, H. Luan, T. Brody, W. F. Odenwald, and T. Lee Development (Cambridge, England), 141:253-8 (2014)
Drosophila type II neuroblasts (NBs), like mammalian neural stem cells, deposit neurons through intermediate neural progenitors (INPs) that can each produce a series of neurons. Both type II NBs and INPs exhibit age-dependent expression of various transcription factors, potentially specifying an array of diverse neurons by combinatorial temporal patterning. Not knowing which mature neurons are made by specific INPs, however, conceals the actual variety of neuron types and limits further molecular studies. Here we mapped neurons derived from specific type II NB lineages and found that sibling INPs produced a morphologically similar but temporally regulated series of distinct neuron types. This suggests a common fate diversification program operating within each INP that is modulated by NB age to generate slightly different sets of diverse neurons based on the INP birth order. Analogous mechanisms might underlie the expansion of neuron diversity via INPs in mammalian brain.
Sparse coding may be a general strategy of neural systems for augmenting memory capacity. In Drosophila melanogaster, sparse odor coding by the Kenyon cells of the mushroom body is thought to generate a large number of precisely addressable locations for the storage of odor-specific memories. However, it remains untested how sparse coding relates to behavioral performance. Here we demonstrate that sparseness is controlled by a negative feedback circuit between Kenyon cells and the GABAergic anterior paired lateral (APL) neuron. Systematic activation and blockade of each leg of this feedback circuit showed that Kenyon cells activated APL and APL inhibited Kenyon cells. Disrupting the Kenyon cell-APL feedback loop decreased the sparseness of Kenyon cell odor responses, increased inter-odor correlations and prevented flies from learning to discriminate similar, but not dissimilar, odors. These results suggest that feedback inhibition suppresses Kenyon cell activity to maintain sparse, decorrelated odor coding and thus the odor specificity of memories.
By generating and studying mosaic organisms, we are learning how intricate tissues form as cells proliferate and diversify through organism development. FLP/FRT-mediated site-specific mitotic recombination permits the generation of mosaic flies with efficiency and control. With heat-inducible or tissue-specific FLP transgenes at our disposal, we can engineer mosaics carrying clones of homozygous cells that come from specific pools of heterozygous precursors. This permits detailed cell lineage analysis followed by mosaic analysis of gene functions in the underlying developmental processes. Expression of transgenes (e.g., reporters) only in the homozygous cells enables mosaic analysis in the complex nervous system. Tracing neuronal lineages by using mosaics revolutionized mechanistic studies of neuronal diversification and differentiation, exemplifying the power of genetic mosaics in developmental biology. WIREs Dev Biol 2014, 3:69–81. doi: 10.1002/wdev.122
Diverse neuronal lineages make stereotyped contributions to the Drosophila locomotor control center, the central complex.The Journal of comparative neurology 2013
J. S. Yang, T. Awasaki, H. Yu, Y. He, P. Ding, J. Kao, and T. Lee The Journal of comparative neurology, 521:2645-62, Spc1 (2013)
The Drosophila central brain develops from a fixed number of neuroblasts. Each neuroblast makes a clone of neurons that exhibit common trajectories. Here we identified 15 distinct clones that carry larval-born neurons innervating the Drosophila central complex (CX), which consists of four midline structures including the protocerebral bridge (PB), fan-shaped body (FB), ellipsoid body (EB), and noduli (NO). Clonal analysis revealed that the small-field CX neurons, which establish intricate projections across different CX substructures, exist in four isomorphic groups that respectively derive from four complex posterior asense-negative lineages. In terms of the region-characteristic large-field CX neurons, we found that two lineages make PB neurons, 10 lineages produce FB neurons, three lineages generate EB neurons, and two lineages yield NO neurons. The diverse FB developmental origins reflect the discrete input pathways for different FB subcompartments. Clonal analysis enlightens both development and anatomy of the insect locomotor control center.
An often-overlooked aspect of neural plasticity is the plasticity of neuronal composition, in which the numbers of neurons of particular classes are altered in response to environment and experience. The Drosophila brain features several well-characterized lineages in which a single neuroblast gives rise to multiple neuronal classes in a stereotyped sequence during development . We find that in the intrinsic mushroom body neuron lineage, the numbers for each class are highly plastic, depending on the timing of temporal fate transitions and the rate of neuroblast proliferation. For example, mushroom body neuroblast cycling can continue under starvation conditions, uncoupled from temporal fate transitions that depend on extrinsic cues reflecting organismal growth and development. In contrast, the proliferation rates of antennal lobe lineages are closely associated with organismal development, and their temporal fate changes appear to be cell cycle-dependent, such that the same numbers and types of uniglomerular projection neurons innervate the antennal lobe following various perturbations. We propose that this surprising difference in plasticity for these brain lineages is adaptive, given their respective roles as parallel processors versus discrete carriers of olfactory information.
Use of a Drosophila genome-wide conserved sequence database to identify functionally related cis-regulatory enhancers.Developmental Dynamics : An Official Publication of the American Association of Anatomists 2012
T. Brody, A. S. Yavatkar, A. Kuzin, M. Kundu, L. J. Tyson, J. Ross, T. Lin, C. Lee, T. Awasaki, T. Lee, and W. F. Odenwald Developmental Dynamics : An Official Publication of the American Association of Anatomists, 241:169-89 (2012)
Phylogenetic footprinting has revealed that cis-regulatory enhancers consist of conserved DNA sequence clusters (CSCs). Currently, there is no systematic approach for enhancer discovery and analysis that takes full-advantage of the sequence information within enhancer CSCs.
Generating neuronal diversity in the Drosophila central nervous system.Developmental Dynamics : An Official Publication of the American Association of Anatomists 2012
S. Lin, and T. Lee Developmental Dynamics : An Official Publication of the American Association of Anatomists, 241:57-68 (2012)
Generating diverse neurons in the central nervous system involves three major steps. First, heterogeneous neural progenitors are specified by positional cues at early embryonic stages. Second, neural progenitors sequentially produce neurons or intermediate precursors that acquire different temporal identities based on their birth-order. Third, sister neurons produced during asymmetrical terminal mitoses are given distinct fates. Determining the molecular mechanisms underlying each of these three steps of cellular diversification will unravel brain development and evolution. Drosophila has a relatively simple and tractable CNS, and previous studies on Drosophila CNS development have greatly advanced our understanding of neuron fate specification. Here we review those studies and discuss how the lessons we have learned from fly teach us the process of neuronal diversification in general.
We found that glia secrete myoglianin, a TGF-β ligand, to instruct developmental neural remodeling in Drosophila. Glial myoglianin upregulated neuronal expression of an ecdysone nuclear receptor that triggered neurite remodeling following the late-larval ecdysone peak. Thus glia orchestrate developmental neural remodeling not only by engulfment of unwanted neurites but also by enabling neuron remodeling.
Neurons derived from the same progenitor may acquire different fates according to their birth timing/order. To reveal temporally guided cell fates, we must determine neuron types as well as their lineage relationships and times of birth. Recent advances in genetic lineage analysis and fate mapping are facilitating such studies. For example, high-resolution lineage analysis can identify each sequentially derived neuron of a lineage and has revealed abrupt temporal identity changes in diverse Drosophila neuronal lineages. In addition, fate mapping of mouse neurons made from the same pool of precursors shows production of specific neuron types in specific temporal patterns. The tools used in these analyses are helping to further our understanding of the genetics of neuronal temporal identity.
Numb can antagonize Notch signaling to diversify the fates of sister cells. We report here that paired sister cells acquire different fates in all three Drosophila neuronal lineages that make diverse types of antennal lobe projection neurons (PNs). Only one in each pair of postmitotic neurons survives into the adult stage in both anterodorsal (ad) and ventral (v) PN lineages. Notably, Notch signaling specifies the PN fate in the vPN lineage but promotes programmed cell death in the missing siblings in the adPN lineage. In addition, Notch/Numb-mediated binary sibling fates underlie the production of PNs and local interneurons from common precursors in the lAL lineage. Furthermore, Numb is needed in the lateral but not adPN or vPN lineages to prevent the appearance of ectopic neuroblasts and to ensure proper self-renewal of neural progenitors. These lineage-specific outputs of Notch/Numb signaling show that a universal mechanism of binary fate decision can be utilized to govern diverse neural sibling differentiations.
Drosophila brains contain numerous neurons that form complex circuits. These neurons are derived in stereotyped patterns from a fixed number of progenitors, called neuroblasts, and identifying individual neurons made by a neuroblast facilitates the reconstruction of neural circuits. An improved MARCM (mosaic analysis with a repressible cell marker) technique, called twin-spot MARCM, allows one to label the sister clones derived from a common progenitor simultaneously in different colors. It enables identification of every single neuron in an extended neuronal lineage based on the order of neuron birth. Here we report the first example, to our knowledge, of complete lineage analysis among neurons derived from a common neuroblast that relay olfactory information from the antennal lobe (AL) to higher brain centers. By identifying the sequentially derived neurons, we found that the neuroblast serially makes 40 types of AL projection neurons (PNs). During embryogenesis, one PN with multi-glomerular innervation and 18 uniglomerular PNs targeting 17 glomeruli of the adult AL are born. Many more PNs of 22 additional types, including four types of polyglomerular PNs, derive after the neuroblast resumes dividing in early larvae. Although different offspring are generated in a rather arbitrary sequence, the birth order strictly dictates the fate of each post-mitotic neuron, including the fate of programmed cell death. Notably, the embryonic progenitor has an altered temporal identity following each self-renewing asymmetric cell division. After larval hatching, the same progenitor produces multiple neurons for each cell type, but the number of neurons for each type is tightly regulated. These observations substantiate the origin-dependent specification of neuron types. Sequencing neuronal lineages will not only unravel how a complex brain develops but also permit systematic identification of neuron types for detailed structure and function analysis of the brain.
Real-time lineage tracing in flies gets a boost with three techniques to specifically label a progenitor's daughter cells.
Nuclear receptors (NRs) comprise a family of ligand-regulated transcription factors that control diverse critical biological processes including various aspects of brain development. Eighteen NR genes exist in the Drosophila genome. To explore their roles in brain development, we knocked down individual NRs through the development of the mushroom bodies (MBs) by targeted RNAi. Besides recapitulating the known MB phenotypes for three NRs, we found that unfulfilled (unf), an ortholog of human photoreceptor specific nuclear receptor (PNR), regulates axonal morphogenesis and neuronal subtype identity. The adult MBs develop through remodeling of gamma neurons plus de-novo elaboration of both alpha'/beta' and alpha/beta neurons. Notably, unf is largely dispensable for the initial elaboration of gamma neurons, but plays an essential role in their re-extension of axons after pruning during early metamorphosis. The subsequently derived MB neuron types also require unf for extension of axons beyond the terminus of the pruned bundle. Tracing single axons revealed misrouting rather than simple truncation. Further, silencing unf in single-cell clones elicited misguidance of axons in otherwise unperturbed MBs. Such axon guidance defects may occur as MB neurons partially lose their subtype identity, as evidenced by suppression of various MB subtype markers in unf knockdown MBs. In sum, unf governs axonal morphogenesis of multiple MB neuron types, possibly through regulating neuronal subtype identity.
A comprehensive understanding of the brain requires the analysis of individual neurons. We used twin-spot mosaic analysis with repressible cell markers (twin-spot MARCM) to trace cell lineages at high resolution by independently labeling paired sister clones. We determined patterns of neurogenesis and the influences of lineage on neuron-type specification. Notably, neural progenitors were able to yield intermediate precursors that create one, two or more neurons. Furthermore, neurons acquired stereotyped projections according to their temporal position in various brain sublineages. Twin-spot MARCM also permitted birth dating of mutant clones, enabling us to detect a single temporal fate that required chinmo in a sublineage of six Drosophila central complex neurons. In sum, twin-spot MARCM can reveal the developmental origins of neurons and the mechanisms that underlie cell fate.
Prior Publications (10)
Endodomain diversity in the Drosophila Dscam and its roles in neuronal morphogenesis.The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience 2009
H. Yu, J. S. Yang, J. Wang, Y. Huang, and T. Lee The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 29:1904-14 (2009)
Drosophila Down syndrome cell adhesion molecule (Dscam) can be variably spliced to encode 152,064 distinct single-pass transmembrane proteins. In addition to 19,008 possible ectodomains and two alternative transmembrane segments, it may carry endodomains containing or lacking exons 19 and 23. Here, we determine the role of Dscam endodomain diversity in neural development. Dscam with full-length endodomain is largely restricted to embryogenesis. In contrast, most Dscams lack exons 19 and 23 at postembryonic stages. As implicated from the expression patterns, removal of Dscam exon 19-containing variants disrupts wiring of embryonic neurons while silencing of Dscam transcripts lacking exon 19 or exon 23 effectively blocks postembryonic neuronal morphogenesis. Furthermore, compared with exon 19-containing Dscam, transgenic Dscam without exon 19 is more efficiently targeted to neurites and more potently suppresses axon bifurcation in Dscam mutant neurons. In sum, Dscam with or without exon 19 in its endodomain is used to govern different stage-specific neuronal morphogenetic processes, possibly due to differences in protein targeting.
The antennal lobe (AL) is the primary structure in the Drosophila brain that relays odor information from the antennae to higher brain centers. The characterization of uniglomerular projection neurons (PNs) and some local interneurons has facilitated our understanding of olfaction; however, many other AL neurons remain unidentified. Because neuron types are mostly specified by lineage and temporal origins, we use the MARCM techniques with a set of enhancer-trap GAL4 lines to perform systematical lineage analysis to characterize neuron morphologies, lineage origin and birth timing in the three AL neuron lineages that contain GAL4-GH146-positive PNs: anterodorsal, lateral and ventral lineages. The results show that the anterodorsal lineage is composed of pure uniglomerular PNs that project through the inner antennocerebral tract. The ventral lineage produces uniglomerular and multiglomerular PNs that project through the middle antennocerebral tract. The lateral lineage generates multiple types of neurons, including uniglomeurlar PNs, diverse atypical PNs, various types of AL local interneurons and the neurons that make no connection within the ALs. Specific neuron types in all three lineages are produced in specific time windows, although multiple neuron types in the lateral lineage are made simultaneously. These systematic cell lineage analyses have not only filled gaps in the olfactory map, but have also exemplified additional strategies used in the brain to increase neuronal diversity.
Organization and postembryonic development of glial cells in the adult central brain of Drosophila.The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience 2008
T. Awasaki, S. Lai, K. Ito, and T. Lee The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 28:13742-53 (2008)
Glial cells exist throughout the nervous system, and play essential roles in various aspects of neural development and function. Distinct types of glia may govern diverse glial functions. To determine the roles of glia requires systematic characterization of glia diversity and development. In the adult Drosophila central brain, we identify five different types of glia based on its location, morphology, marker expression, and development. Perineurial and subperineurial glia reside in two separate single-cell layers on the brain surface, cortex glia form a glial mesh in the brain cortex where neuronal cell bodies reside, while ensheathing and astrocyte-like glia enwrap and infiltrate into neuropils, respectively. Clonal analysis reveals that distinct glial types derive from different precursors, and that most adult perineurial, ensheathing, and astrocyte-like glia are produced after embryogenesis. Notably, perineurial glial cells are made locally on the brain surface without the involvement of gcm (glial cell missing). In contrast, the widespread ensheathing and astrocyte-like glia derive from specific brain regions in a gcm-dependent manner. This study documents glia diversity in the adult fly brain and demonstrates involvement of different developmental programs in the derivation of distinct types of glia. It lays an essential foundation for studying glia development and function in the Drosophila brain.
Specific Drosophila Dscam juxtamembrane variants control dendritic elaboration and axonal arborization.The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience 2007
L. Shi, H. Yu, J. S. Yang, and T. Lee The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 27:6723-8 (2007)
Drosophila Dscam isoforms are derived from two alternative transmembrane/juxtamembrane domains (TMs) in addition to thousands of ectodomain variants. Using a microRNA-based RNA interference technology, we selectively knocked down different subsets of Dscams containing either the exon 17.1- or exon 17.2-encoding TM. Eliminating Dscam[TM1] reduced Dscam expression but minimally affected postembryonic axonal morphogenesis. In contrast, depleting Dscam[TM2] blocked axon arborization. Further removal of Dscam[TM1] enhanced the loss-of-Dscam[TM2] axonal phenotypes. However, Dscam[TM1] primarily regulates dendritic development, as evidenced by the observations that removing Dscam[TM1] alone impeded elaboration of dendrites and that transgenic Dscam[TM1], but not Dscam[TM2], effectively rescued Dscam mutant dendritic phenotypes in mosaic organisms. These distinct Dscam functions can be attributed to the juxtamembrane regions of TMs that govern dendritic versus axonal targeting of Dscam as well. Together, we suggest that specific Drosophila Dscam juxtamembrane variants control dendritic elaboration and axonal arborization.
Many neural progenitors, including Drosophila mushroom body (MB) and projection neuron (PN) neuroblasts, sequentially give rise to different subtypes of neurons throughout development. We identified a novel BTB-zinc finger protein, named Chinmo (Chronologically inappropriate morphogenesis), that governs neuronal temporal identity during postembryonic development of the Drosophila brain. In both MB and PN lineages, loss of Chinmo autonomously causes early-born neurons to adopt the fates of late-born neurons from the same lineages. Interestingly, primarily due to a posttranscriptional control, MB neurons born at early developmental stages contain more abundant Chinmo than their later-born siblings. Further, the temporal identity of MB progeny can be transformed toward earlier or later fates by reducing or increasing Chinmo levels, respectively. Taken together, we suggest that a temporal gradient of Chinmo (Chinmo(high) --> Chinmo(low)) helps specify distinct birth order-dependent cell fates in an extended neuronal lineage.
Besides 19,008 possible ectodomains, Drosophila Dscam contains two alternative transmembrane/juxtamembrane segments, respectively, derived from exon 17.1 and exon 17.2. We wondered whether specific Dscam isoforms mediate formation and segregation of axonal branches in the Drosophila mushroom bodies (MBs). Removal of various subsets of the 12 exon 4s does not affect MB neuronal morphogenesis, while expression of a Dscam transgene only partially rescues Dscam mutant phenotypes. Interestingly, differential rescuing effects are observed between two Dscam transgenes that each possesses one of the two possible exon 17s. Axon bifurcation/segregation abnormalities are better rescued by the exon 17.2-containing transgene, but coexpression of both transgenes is required for rescuing mutant viability. Meanwhile, exon 17.1 targets ectopically expressed Dscam-GFP to dendrites while Dscam[exon 17.2]-GFP is enriched in axons; only Dscam[exon 17.2] affects MB axons. These results suggest that exon 17.1 is minimally involved in axonal morphogenesis and that morphogenesis of MB axons probably involves multiple distinct exon 17.2-containing Dscam isoforms.
Metamorphosis of the Drosophila brain involves pruning of many larval-specific dendrites and axons followed by outgrowth of adult-specific processes. From a genetic mosaic screen, we recovered two independent mutations that block neuronal remodeling in the mushroom bodies (MBs). These phenotypically indistinguishable mutations affect Baboon function, a Drosophila TGF-beta/activin type I receptor, and dSmad2, its downstream transcriptional effector. We also show that Punt and Wit, two type II receptors, act redundantly in this process. In addition, knocking out dActivin around the mid-third instar stage interferes with remodeling. Binding of the insect steroid hormone ecdysone to distinct ecdysone receptor isoforms induces different metamorphic responses in various larval tissues. Interestingly, expression of the ecdysone receptor B1 isoform (EcR-B1) is reduced in activin pathway mutants, and restoring EcR-B1 expression significantly rescues remodeling defects. We conclude that the Drosophila Activin signaling pathway mediates neuronal remodeling in part by regulating EcR-B1 expression.
Axon bifurcation results in the formation of sister branches, and divergent segregation of the sister branches is essential for efficient innervation of multiple targets. From a genetic mosaic screen, we find that a lethal mutation in the Drosophila Down syndrome cell adhesion molecule (Dscam) specifically perturbs segregation of axonal branches in the mushroom bodies. Single axon analysis further reveals that Dscam mutant axons generate additional branches, which randomly segregate among the available targets. Moreover, when only one target remains, branching is suppressed in wild-type axons while Dscam mutant axons still form multiple branches at the original bifurcation point. Taken together, we conclude that Dscam controls axon branching and guidance such that a neuron can innervate multiple targets with minimal branching.
The mushroom bodies (MBs) are prominent structures in the Drosophila brain that are essential for olfactory learning and memory. Characterization of the development and projection patterns of individual MB neurons will be important for elucidating their functions. Using mosaic analysis with a repressible cell marker (Lee, T. and Luo, L. (1999) Neuron 22, 451-461), we have positively marked the axons and dendrites of multicellular and single-cell mushroom body clones at specific developmental stages. Systematic clonal analysis demonstrates that a single mushroom body neuroblast sequentially generates at least three types of morphologically distinct neurons. Neurons projecting into the (gamma) lobe of the adult MB are born first, prior to the mid-3rd instar larval stage. Neurons projecting into the alpha' and beta' lobes are born between the mid-3rd instar larval stage and puparium formation. Finally, neurons projecting into the alpha and beta lobes are born after puparium formation. Visualization of individual MB neurons has also revealed how different neurons acquire their characteristic axon projections. During the larval stage, axons of all MB neurons bifurcate into both the dorsal and medial lobes. Shortly after puparium formation, larval MB neurons are selectively pruned according to birthdays. Degeneration of axon branches makes early-born gamma neurons retain only their main processes in the peduncle, which then project into the adult gamma lobe without bifurcation. In contrast, the basic axon projections of the later-born (alpha'/beta') larval neurons are preserved during metamorphosis. This study illustrates the cellular organization of mushroom bodies and the development of different MB neurons at the single cell level. It allows for future studies on the molecular mechanisms of mushroom body development.
We describe a genetic mosaic system in Drosophila, in which a dominant repressor of a cell marker is placed in trans to a mutant gene of interest. Mitotic recombination events between homologous chromosomes generate homozygous mutant cells, which are exclusively labeled due to loss of the repressor. Using this system, we are able to visualize axonal projections and dendritic elaboration in large neuroblast clones and single neuron clones with a membrane-targeted GFP marker. This new method allows for the study of gene functions in neuroblast proliferation, axon guidance, and dendritic elaboration in the complex central nervous system. As an example, we show that the short stop gene is required in mushroom body neurons for the extension and guidance of their axons.