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46 Publications

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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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    12/28/07 | Function of the Drosophila CPEB protein Orb2 in long-term courtship memory.
    Keleman K, Krüttner S, Alenius M, Dickson BJ
    Nature Neuroscience. 2007 Dec 28;10(12):1587-93. doi: 10.1038/nn1996

    Both long-term behavioral memory and synaptic plasticity require protein synthesis, some of which may occur locally at specific synapses. Cytoplasmic polyadenylation element-binding (CPEB) proteins are thought to contribute to the local protein synthesis that underlies long-term changes in synaptic efficacy, but a role has not been established for them in the formation of long-term behavioral memory. We found that the Drosophila melanogaster CPEB protein Orb2 is acutely required for long-term conditioning of male courtship behavior. Deletion of the N-terminal glutamine-rich region of Orb2 resulted in flies that were impaired in their ability to form long-term, but not short-term, memory. Memory was restored by expressing Orb2 selectively in fruitless (fru)-positive gamma neurons of the mushroom bodies and by providing Orb2 function in mushroom bodies only during and shortly after training. Our data thus demonstrate that a CPEB protein is important in long-term memory and map the molecular, spatial and temporal requirements for its function in memory formation.

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    12/01/07 | The role of visual and mechanosensory cues in structuring forward flight in Drosophila melanogaster.
    Budick SA, Reiser MB, Dickinson MH
    The Journal of Experimental Biology. 2007 Dec;210(Pt 23):4092-103. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2010.06.072

    It has long been known that many flying insects use visual cues to orient with respect to the wind and to control their groundspeed in the face of varying wind conditions. Much less explored has been the role of mechanosensory cues in orienting insects relative to the ambient air. Here we show that Drosophila melanogaster, magnetically tethered so as to be able to rotate about their yaw axis, are able to detect and orient into a wind, as would be experienced during forward flight. Further, this behavior is velocity dependent and is likely subserved, at least in part, by the Johnston’s organs, chordotonal organs in the antennae also involved in near-field sound detection. These wind-mediated responses may help to explain how flies are able to fly forward despite visual responses that might otherwise inhibit this behavior. Expanding visual stimuli, such as are encountered during forward flight, are the most potent aversive visual cues known for D. melanogaster flying in a tethered paradigm. Accordingly, tethered flies strongly orient towards a focus of contraction, a problematic situation for any animal attempting to fly forward. We show in this study that wind stimuli, transduced via mechanosensory means, can compensate for the aversion to visual expansion and thus may help to explain how these animals are indeed able to maintain forward flight.

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    07/12/07 | A genome-wide transgenic RNAi library for conditional gene inactivation in Drosophila.
    Dietzl G, Chen D, Schnorrer F, Su K, Barinova Y, Fellner M, Gasser B, Kinsey K, Oppel S, Scheiblauer S, Couto A, Marra V, Keleman K, Dickson BJ
    Nature. 2007 Jul 12;448(7150):151-6. doi: 10.1038/nature05954

    Forward genetic screens in model organisms have provided important insights into numerous aspects of development, physiology and pathology. With the availability of complete genome sequences and the introduction of RNA-mediated gene interference (RNAi), systematic reverse genetic screens are now also possible. Until now, such genome-wide RNAi screens have mostly been restricted to cultured cells and ubiquitous gene inactivation in Caenorhabditis elegans. This powerful approach has not yet been applied in a tissue-specific manner. Here we report the generation and validation of a genome-wide library of Drosophila melanogaster RNAi transgenes, enabling the conditional inactivation of gene function in specific tissues of the intact organism. Our RNAi transgenes consist of short gene fragments cloned as inverted repeats and expressed using the binary GAL4/UAS system. We generated 22,270 transgenic lines, covering 88% of the predicted protein-coding genes in the Drosophila genome. Molecular and phenotypic assays indicate that the majority of these transgenes are functional. Our transgenic RNAi library thus opens up the prospect of systematically analysing gene functions in any tissue and at any stage of the Drosophila lifespan.

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