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19 Publications

Showing 1-10 of 19 results
06/28/22 | Neural network organization for courtship-song feature detection in Drosophila.
Baker CA, McKellar C, Pang R, Nern A, Dorkenwald S, Pacheco DA, Eckstein N, Funke J, Dickson BJ, Murthy M
Current Biology. 2022 Jun 28:. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2022.06.019

Animals communicate using sounds in a wide range of contexts, and auditory systems must encode behaviorally relevant acoustic features to drive appropriate reactions. How feature detection emerges along auditory pathways has been difficult to solve due to challenges in mapping the underlying circuits and characterizing responses to behaviorally relevant features. Here, we study auditory activity in the Drosophila melanogaster brain and investigate feature selectivity for the two main modes of fly courtship song, sinusoids and pulse trains. We identify 24 new cell types of the intermediate layers of the auditory pathway, and using a new connectomic resource, FlyWire, we map all synaptic connections between these cell types, in addition to connections to known early and higher-order auditory neurons-this represents the first circuit-level map of the auditory pathway. We additionally determine the sign (excitatory or inhibitory) of most synapses in this auditory connectome. We find that auditory neurons display a continuum of preferences for courtship song modes and that neurons with different song-mode preferences and response timescales are highly interconnected in a network that lacks hierarchical structure. Nonetheless, we find that the response properties of individual cell types within the connectome are predictable from their inputs. Our study thus provides new insights into the organization of auditory coding within the Drosophila brain.

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04/02/22 | Hierarchical architecture of dopaminergic circuits enables second-order conditioning in Drosophila
Daichi Yamada , Daniel Bushey , Li Feng , Karen Hibbard , Megan Sammons , Jan Funke , Ashok Litwin-Kumar , Toshihide Hige , Yoshinori Aso
bioRxiv. 2022 Apr 02:. doi: 10.1101/2022.03.30.486484

Dopaminergic neurons with distinct projection patterns and physiological properties compose memory subsystems in a brain. However, it is poorly understood whether or how they interact during complex learning. Here, we identify a feedforward circuit formed between dopamine subsystems and show that it is essential for second-order conditioning, an ethologically important form of higher-order associative learning. The Drosophila mushroom body comprises a series of dopaminergic compartments, each of which exhibits distinct memory dynamics. We find that a slow and stable memory compartment can serve as an effective “teacher” by instructing other faster and transient memory compartments via a single key interneuron, which we identify by connectome analysis and neurotransmitter prediction. This excitatory interneuron acquires enhanced response to reward-predicting odor after first-order conditioning and, upon activation, evokes dopamine release in the “student” compartments. These hierarchical connections between dopamine subsystems explain distinct properties of first- and second-order memory long known by behavioral psychologists.

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03/26/22 | Transverse endoplasmic reticulum expansion in hereditary spastic paraplegia corticospinal axons.
Zhu P, Hung H, Batchenkova N, Nixon-Abell J, Henderson J, Zheng P, Renvoisé B, Pang S, Xu CS, Saalfeld S, Funke J, Xie Y, Svara F, Hess HF, Blackstone C
Human Molecular Genetics. 2022 Mar 26:. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddac072

Hereditary spastic paraplegias (HSPs) comprise a large group of inherited neurologic disorders affecting the longest corticospinal axons (SPG1-86 plus others), with shared manifestations of lower extremity spasticity and gait impairment. Common autosomal dominant HSPs are caused by mutations in genes encoding the microtubule-severing ATPase spastin (SPAST; SPG4), the membrane-bound GTPase atlastin-1 (ATL1; SPG3A), and the reticulon-like, microtubule-binding protein REEP1 (REEP1; SPG31). These proteins bind one another and function in shaping the tubular endoplasmic reticulum (ER) network. Typically, mouse models of HSPs have mild, later-onset phenotypes, possibly reflecting far shorter lengths of their corticospinal axons relative to humans. Here, we have generated a robust, double mutant mouse model of HSP in which atlastin-1 is genetically modified with a K80A knock-in (KI) missense change that abolishes its GTPase activity, while its binding partner Reep1 is knocked out. Atl1KI/KI/Reep1-/- mice exhibit early-onset and rapidly progressive declines in several motor function tests. Also, ER in mutant corticospinal axons dramatically expands transversely and periodically in a mutation dosage-dependent manner to create a ladder-like appearance, based on reconstructions of focused ion beam-scanning electron microscopy datasets using machine learning-based auto-segmentation. In lockstep with changes in ER morphology, axonal mitochondria are fragmented and proportions of hypophosphorylated neurofilament H and M subunits are dramatically increased in Atl1KI/KI/Reep1-/- spinal cord. Co-occurrence of these findings links ER morphology changes to alterations in mitochondrial morphology and cytoskeletal organization. Atl1KI/KI/Reep1-/- mice represent an early-onset rodent HSP model with robust behavioral and cellular readouts for testing novel therapies.

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11/01/21 | Whole-cell organelle segmentation in volume electron microscopy.
Heinrich L, Bennett D, Ackerman D, Park W, Bogovic J, Eckstein N, Petruncio A, Clements J, Pang S, Xu CS, Funke J, Korff W, Hess HF, Lippincott-Schwartz J, Saalfeld S, Weigel AV, COSEM Project Team
Nature. 2021 Nov 01;599(7883):141-46. doi: 10.1038/s41586-021-03977-3

Cells contain hundreds of organelles and macromolecular assemblies. Obtaining a complete understanding of their intricate organization requires the nanometre-level, three-dimensional reconstruction of whole cells, which is only feasible with robust and scalable automatic methods. Here, to support the development of such methods, we annotated up to 35 different cellular organelle classes-ranging from endoplasmic reticulum to microtubules to ribosomes-in diverse sample volumes from multiple cell types imaged at a near-isotropic resolution of 4 nm per voxel with focused ion beam scanning electron microscopy (FIB-SEM). We trained deep learning architectures to segment these structures in 4 nm and 8 nm per voxel FIB-SEM volumes, validated their performance and showed that automatic reconstructions can be used to directly quantify previously inaccessible metrics including spatial interactions between cellular components. We also show that such reconstructions can be used to automatically register light and electron microscopy images for correlative studies. We have created an open data and open-source web repository, 'OpenOrganelle', to share the data, computer code and trained models, which will enable scientists everywhere to query and further improve automatic reconstruction of these datasets.

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07/01/21 | Automatic Detection of Synaptic Partners in a Whole-Brain Drosophila EM Dataset
Buhmann J, Sheridan A, Gerhard S, Krause R, Nguyen T, Heinrich L, Schlegel P, Lee WA, Wilson R, Saalfeld S, Jefferis G, Bock D, Turaga S, Cook M, Funke J
Nature Methods. 2021 Jul 1;18(7):771-4. doi: 10.1038/s41592-021-01183-7

The study of neural circuits requires the reconstruction of neurons and the identification of synaptic connections between them. To scale the reconstruction to the size of whole-brain datasets, semi-automatic methods are needed to solve those tasks. Here, we present an automatic method for synaptic partner identification in insect brains, which uses convolutional neural networks to identify post-synaptic sites and their pre-synaptic partners. The networks can be trained from human generated point annotations alone and requires only simple post-processing to obtain final predictions. We used our method to extract 244 million putative synaptic partners in the fifty-teravoxel full adult fly brain (FAFB) electron microscopy (EM) dataset and evaluated its accuracy on 146,643 synapses from 702 neurons with a total cable length of 312 mm in four different brain regions. The predicted synaptic connections can be used together with a neuron segmentation to infer a connectivity graph with high accuracy: 96% of edges between connected neurons are correctly classified as weakly connected (less than five synapses) and strongly connected (at least five synapses). Our synaptic partner predictions for the FAFB dataset are publicly available, together with a query library allowing automatic retrieval of up- and downstream neurons.

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02/04/20 | Reconstruction of motor control circuits in adult Drosophila using automated transmission electron microscopy
Maniates-Selvin JT, Hildebrand DG, Graham BJ, Kuan AT, Thomas LA, Nguyen T, Buhmann J, Azevedo AW, Shanny BL, Funke J, Tuthill JC, Lee WA
Cell. 2021 Feb 04;184(3):. doi: 10.1101/2020.01.10.902478

Many animals use coordinated limb movements to interact with and navigate through the environment. To investigate circuit mechanisms underlying locomotor behavior, we used serial-section electron microscopy (EM) to map synaptic connectivity within a neuronal network that controls limb movements. We present a synapse-resolution EM dataset containing the ventral nerve cord (VNC) of an adult female Drosophila melanogaster. To generate this dataset, we developed GridTape, a technology that combines automated serial-section collection with automated high-throughput transmission EM. Using this dataset, we reconstructed 507 motor neurons, including all those that control the legs and wings. We show that a specific class of leg sensory neurons directly synapse onto the largest-caliber motor neuron axons on both sides of the body, representing a unique feedback pathway for fast limb control. We provide open access to the dataset and reconstructions registered to a standard atlas to permit matching of cells between EM and light microscopy data. We also provide GridTape instrumentation designs and software to make large-scale EM data acquisition more accessible and affordable to the scientific community.

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12/01/20 | Dense neuronal reconstruction through X-ray holographic nano-tomography.
Kuan AT, Phelps JS, Thomas LA, Nguyen TM, Han J, Chen C, Azevedo AW, Tuthill JC, Funke J, Cloetens P, Pacureanu A, Lee WA
Nature Neuroscience. 2020 Dec -1;23(12):1637-43. doi: 10.1038/s41593-020-0704-9

Imaging neuronal networks provides a foundation for understanding the nervous system, but resolving dense nanometer-scale structures over large volumes remains challenging for light microscopy (LM) and electron microscopy (EM). Here we show that X-ray holographic nano-tomography (XNH) can image millimeter-scale volumes with sub-100-nm resolution, enabling reconstruction of dense wiring in Drosophila melanogaster and mouse nervous tissue. We performed correlative XNH and EM to reconstruct hundreds of cortical pyramidal cells and show that more superficial cells receive stronger synaptic inhibition on their apical dendrites. By combining multiple XNH scans, we imaged an adult Drosophila leg with sufficient resolution to comprehensively catalog mechanosensory neurons and trace individual motor axons from muscles to the central nervous system. To accelerate neuronal reconstructions, we trained a convolutional neural network to automatically segment neurons from XNH volumes. Thus, XNH bridges a key gap between LM and EM, providing a new avenue for neural circuit discovery.

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09/17/20 | Microtubule Tracking in Electron Microscopy Volumes
Nils Eckstein , Julia Buhmann , Matthew Cook , Jan Funke
International Conference on Medical Image Computing and Computer-Assisted Intervention. 2020 Sep 17:

We present a method for microtubule tracking in electron microscopy volumes. Our method first identifies a sparse set of voxels that likely belong to microtubules. Similar to prior work, we then enumerate potential edges between these voxels, which we represent in a candidate graph. Tracks of microtubules are found by selecting nodes and edges in the candidate graph by solving a constrained optimization problem incorporating biological priors on microtubule structure. For this, we present a novel integer linear programming formulation, which results in speed-ups of three orders of magnitude and an increase of 53% in accuracy compared to prior art (evaluated on three 1 . 2 × 4 × 4µm volumes of Drosophila neural tissue). We also propose a scheme to solve the optimization problem in a block-wise fashion, which allows distributed tracking and is necessary to process very large electron microscopy volumes. Finally, we release a benchmark dataset for microtubule tracking, here used for training, testing and validation, consisting of eight 30 x 1000 x 1000 voxel blocks (1 . 2 × 4 × 4µm) of densely annotated microtubules in the CREMI data set (

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09/10/20 | Inpainting Networks Learn to Separate Cells in Microscopy Images
Wolf S, Hamprecht FA, Funke J
British Machine Vision Conference. 2020 Sep:

Deep neural networks trained to inpaint partially occluded images show a deep understanding of image composition and have even been shown to remove objects from images convincingly. In this work, we investigate how this implicit knowledge of image composition can be be used to separate cells in densely populated microscopy images. We propose a measure for the independence of two image regions given a fully self-supervised inpainting network and separate objects by maximizing this independence. We evaluate our method on two cell segmentation datasets and show that cells can be separated completely unsupervised. Furthermore, combined with simple foreground detection, our method yields instance segmentation of similar quality to fully supervised methods.

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09/02/20 | Neurotransmitter Classification from Electron Microscopy Images at Synaptic Sites in Drosophila
Eckstein N, Bates AS, Du M, Hartenstein V, Jefferis GS, Funke J
bioRxiv. 2020 Sep 2:. doi: 10.1101/2020.06.12.148775

High-resolution electron microscopy (EM) of nervous systems enables the reconstruction of neural circuits at the level of individual synaptic connections. However, for invertebrates, such as Drosophila melanogaster, it has so far been unclear whether the phenotype of neurons or synapses alone is sufficient to predict specific functional properties such as neurotransmitter identity. Here, we show that in Drosophila melanogaster artificial convolutional neural networks can confidently predict the type of neurotransmitter released at a synaptic site from EM images alone. The network successfully discriminates between six types of neurotransmitters (GABA, glutamate, acetylcholine, serotonin, dopamine, and octopamine) with an average accuracy of 87% for individual synapses and 94% for entire neurons, assuming each neuron expresses only one neurotransmitter. This result is surprising as there are often no obvious cues in the EM images that human observers can use to predict neurotransmitter identity. We apply the proposed method to quantify whether, similar to the ventral nervous system (VNS), all hemilineages in the Drosophila melanogaster brain express only one fast acting transmitter within their neurons. To test this principle, we predict the neurotransmitter identity of all identified synapses in 89 hemilineages in the Drosophila melanogaster adult brain. While the majority of our predictions show homogeneity of fast-acting neurotransmitter identity within a single hemilineage, we identify a set of hemilineages that express two fast-acting neurotransmitters with high statistical significance. As a result, our predictions are inconsistent with the hypothesis that all neurons within a hemilineage express the same fast-acting neurotransmitter in the brain of Drosophila melanogaster.

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