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43 Publications

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    06/14/13 | Parallel neural pathways mediate CO2 avoidance responses in Drosophila.
    Lin H, Chu L, Fu T, Dickson BJ, Chiang A
    Science. 2013 Jun 14;340(6138):1338-41. doi: 10.1126/science.1236693

    Different stimulus intensities elicit distinct perceptions, implying that input signals are either conveyed through an overlapping but distinct subpopulation of sensory neurons or channeled into divergent brain circuits according to intensity. In Drosophila, carbon dioxide (CO2) is detected by a single type of olfactory sensory neuron, but information is conveyed to higher brain centers through second-order projection neurons (PNs). Two distinct pathways, PN(v)-1 and PN(v)-2, are necessary and sufficient for avoidance responses to low and high CO2 concentrations, respectively. Whereas low concentrations activate PN(v)-1, high concentrations activate both PN(v)s and GABAergic PN(v)-3, which may inhibit PN(v)-1 pathway-mediated avoidance behavior. Channeling a sensory input into distinct neural pathways allows the perception of an odor to be further modulated by both stimulus intensity and context.

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    05/30/13 | A comprehensive wiring diagram of the protocerebral bridge for visual information processing in the Drosophila brain.
    Lin C, Chuang C, Hua T, Chen C, Dickson BJ, Greenspan RJ, Chiang A
    Cell Reports. 2013 May 30;3(5):1739-53. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2013.04.022

    How the brain perceives sensory information and generates meaningful behavior depends critically on its underlying circuitry. The protocerebral bridge (PB) is a major part of the insect central complex (CX), a premotor center that may be analogous to the human basal ganglia. Here, by deconstructing hundreds of PB single neurons and reconstructing them into a common three-dimensional framework, we have constructed a comprehensive map of PB circuits with labeled polarity and predicted directions of information flow. Our analysis reveals a highly ordered information processing system that involves directed information flow among CX subunits through 194 distinct PB neuron types. Circuitry properties such as mirroring, convergence, divergence, tiling, reverberation, and parallel signal propagation were observed; their functional and evolutional significance is discussed. This layout of PB neuronal circuitry may provide guidelines for further investigations on transformation of sensory (e.g., visual) input into locomotor commands in fly brains.

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    10/18/12 | Drosophila CPEB Orb2A mediates memory independent of Its RNA-binding domain.
    Krüttner S, Stepien B, Noordermeer JN, Mommaas MA, Mechtler K, Dickson BJ, Keleman K
    Neuron. 2012 Oct 18;76(2):383-95. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2012.08.028

    Long-term memory and synaptic plasticity are thought to require the synthesis of new proteins at activated synapses. The CPEB family of RNA binding proteins, including Drosophila Orb2, has been implicated in this process. The precise mechanism by which these molecules regulate memory formation is however poorly understood. We used gene targeting and site-specific transgenesis to specifically modify the endogenous orb2 gene in order to investigate its role in long-term memory formation. We show that the Orb2A and Orb2B isoforms, while both essential, have distinct functions in memory formation. These two isoforms have common glutamine-rich and RNA-binding domains, yet Orb2A uniquely requires the former and Orb2B the latter. We further show that Orb2A induces Orb2 complexes in a manner dependent upon both its glutamine-rich region and neuronal activity. We propose that Orb2B acts as a conventional CPEB to regulate transport and/or translation of specific mRNAs, whereas Orb2A acts in an unconventional manner to form stable Orb2 complexes that are essential for memory to persist.

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    09/06/12 | Dopamine neurons modulate pheromone responses in Drosophila courtship learning.
    Keleman K, Vrontou E, Krüttner S, Yu JY, Kurtovic-Kozaric A, Dickson BJ
    Nature. 2012 Sep 6;489(7414):145-9. doi: 10.1038/nature11345

    Learning through trial-and-error interactions allows animals to adapt innate behavioural ‘rules of thumb’ to the local environment, improving their prospects for survival and reproduction. Naive Drosophila melanogaster males, for example, court both virgin and mated females, but learn through experience to selectively suppress futile courtship towards females that have already mated. Here we show that courtship learning reflects an enhanced response to the male pheromone cis-vaccenyl acetate (cVA), which is deposited on females during mating and thus distinguishes mated females from virgins. Dissociation experiments suggest a simple learning rule in which unsuccessful courtship enhances sensitivity to cVA. The learning experience can be mimicked by artificial activation of dopaminergic neurons, and we identify a specific class of dopaminergic neuron that is critical for courtship learning. These neurons provide input to the mushroom body (MB) γ lobe, and the DopR1 dopamine receptor is required in MBγ neurons for both natural and artificial courtship learning. Our work thus reveals critical behavioural, cellular and molecular components of the learning rule by which Drosophila adjusts its innate mating strategy according to experience.

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    06/28/12 | The Drosophila female aphrodisiac pheromone activates ppk23(+) sensory neurons to elicit male courtship behavior.
    Toda H, Zhao X, Dickson BJ
    Cell Reports. 2012 Jun 28;1(6):599-607. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2012.05.007

    Females of many animal species emit chemical signals that attract and arouse males for mating. For example, the major aphrodisiac pheromone of Drosophila melanogaster females, 7,11-heptacosadiene (7,11-HD), is a potent inducer of male-specific courtship and copulatory behaviors. Here, we demonstrate that a set of gustatory sensory neurons on the male foreleg, defined by expression of the ppk23 marker, respond to 7,11-HD. Activity of these neurons is required for males to robustly court females or to court males perfumed with 7,11-HD. Artificial activation of these ppk23(+) neurons stimulates male-male courtship even without 7,11-HD perfuming. These data identify the ppk23(+) sensory neurons as the primary targets for female sex pheromones in Drosophila.

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    05/03/11 | Robo-3--mediated repulsive interactions guide R8 axons during Drosophila visual system development.
    Pappu KS, Morey M, Nern A, Spitzweck B, Dickson BJ, Zipursky SL
    Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 May 03;108(18):7571-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1103419108

    The formation of neuronal connections requires the precise guidance of developing axons toward their targets. In the Drosophila visual system, photoreceptor neurons (R cells) project from the eye into the brain. These cells are grouped into some 750 clusters comprised of eight photoreceptors or R cells each. R cells fall into three classes: R1 to R6, R7, and R8. Posterior R8 cells are the first to project axons into the brain. How these axons select a specific pathway is not known. Here, we used a microarray-based approach to identify genes expressed in R8 neurons as they extend into the brain. We found that Roundabout-3 (Robo3), an axon-guidance receptor, is expressed specifically and transiently in R8 growth cones. In wild-type animals, posterior-most R8 axons extend along a border of glial cells demarcated by the expression of Slit, the secreted ligand of Robo3. In contrast, robo3 mutant R8 axons extend across this border and fasciculate inappropriately with other axon tracts. We demonstrate that either Robo1 or Robo2 rescues the robo3 mutant phenotype when each is knocked into the endogenous robo3 locus separately, indicating that R8 does not require a function unique to the Robo3 paralog. However, persistent expression of Robo3 in R8 disrupts the layer-specific targeting of R8 growth cones. Thus, the transient cell-specific expression of Robo3 plays a crucial role in establishing neural circuits in the Drosophila visual system by selectively regulating pathway choice for posterior-most R8 growth cones.

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    02/10/11 | Neuronal control of Drosophila courtship song.
    von Philipsborn AC, Liu T, Yu JY, Masser C, Bidaye SS, Dickson BJ
    Neuron. 2011 Feb 10;69:509-22. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2011.01.011

    The courtship song of the Drosophila male serves as a genetically tractable model for the investigation of the neural mechanisms of decision-making, action selection, and motor pattern generation. Singing has been causally linked to the activity of the set of neurons that express the sex-specific fru transcripts, but the specific neurons involved have not been identified. Here we identify five distinct classes of fru neuron that trigger or compose the song. Our data suggest that P1 and pIP10 neurons in the brain mediate the decision to sing, and to act upon this decision, while the thoracic neurons dPR1, vPR6, and vMS11 are components of a central pattern generator that times and shapes the song’s pulses. These neurons are potentially connected in a functional circuit, with the descending pIP10 neuron linking the brain and thoracic song centers. Sexual dimorphisms in each of these neurons may explain why only males sing.

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    09/28/10 | Cellular organization of the neural circuit that drives Drosophila courtship behavior.
    Yu JY, Kanai MI, Demir E, Jefferis GS, Dickson BJ
    Current Biology. 2010 Sep 28;20(18):1602-14. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2010.08.025

    BACKGROUND: Courtship behavior in Drosophila has been causally linked to the activity of the heterogeneous set of \~{}1500 neurons that express the sex-specific transcripts of the fruitless (fru) gene, but we currently lack an appreciation of the cellular diversity within this population, the extent to which these cells are sexually dimorphic, and how they might be organized into functional circuits. RESULTS: We used genetic methods to define 100 distinct classes of fru neuron, which we compiled into a digital 3D atlas at cellular resolution. We determined the polarity of many of these neurons and computed their likely patterns of connectivity, thereby assembling them into a neural circuit that extends from sensory input to motor output. The cellular organization of this circuit reveals neuronal pathways in the brain that are likely to integrate multiple sensory cues from other flies and to issue descending control signals to motor circuits in the thoracic ganglia. We identified 11 anatomical dimorphisms within this circuit: neurons that are male specific, are more numerous in males than females, or have distinct arborization patterns in males and females. CONCLUSIONS: The cellular organization of the fru circuit suggests how multiple distinct sensory cues are integrated in the fly’s brain to drive sex-specific courtship behavior. We propose that sensory processing and motor control are mediated through circuits that are largely similar in males and females. Sex-specific behavior may instead arise through dimorphic circuits in the brain and nerve cord that differentially couple sensory input to motor output.

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    02/05/10 | Distinct protein domains and expression patterns confer divergent axon guidance functions for Drosophila Robo receptors.
    Spitzweck B, Brankatschk M, Dickson BJ
    Cell. 2010 Feb 5;140(3):409-20. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2010.01.002

    The orthogonal array of axon pathways in the Drosophila CNS is constructed in part under the control of three Robo family axon guidance receptors: Robo1, Robo2 and Robo3. Each of these receptors is responsible for a distinct set of guidance decisions. To determine the molecular basis for these functional specializations, we used homologous recombination to create a series of 9 "robo swap" alleles: expressing each of the three Robo receptors from each of the three robo loci. We demonstrate that the lateral positioning of longitudinal axon pathways relies primarily on differences in gene regulation, not distinct combinations of Robo proteins as previously thought. In contrast, specific features of the Robo1 and Robo2 proteins contribute to their distinct functions in commissure formation. These specializations allow Robo1 to prevent crossing and Robo2 to promote crossing. These data demonstrate how diversification of expression and structure within a single family of guidance receptors can shape complex patterns of neuronal wiring.

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    02/26/09 | Sensory neurons in the Drosophila genital tract regulate female reproductive behavior.
    Häsemeyer M, Yapici N, Heberlein U, Dickson BJ
    Neuron. 2009 Feb 26;61(4):511-8. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2009.01.009

    Females of many animal species behave very differently before and after mating. In Drosophila melanogaster, changes in female behavior upon mating are triggered by the sex peptide (SP), a small peptide present in the male's seminal fluid. SP activates a specific receptor, the sex peptide receptor (SPR), which is broadly expressed in the female reproductive tract and nervous system. Here, we pinpoint the action of SPR to a small subset of internal sensory neurons that innervate the female uterus and oviduct. These neurons express both fruitless (fru), a marker for neurons likely to have sex-specific functions, and pickpocket (ppk), a marker for proprioceptive neurons. We show that SPR expression in these fru+ ppk+ neurons is both necessary and sufficient for behavioral changes induced by mating. These neurons project to regions of the central nervous system that have been implicated in the control of reproductive behaviors in Drosophila and other insects.

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