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136 Publications

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    05/22/17 | Angular velocity integration in a fly heading circuit.
    Turner-Evans D, Wegener S, Rouault H, Franconville R, Wolff T, Seelig JD, Druckmann S, Jayaraman V
    eLife. 2017 May 22;6:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.23496

    Many animals maintain an internal representation of their heading as they move through their surroundings. Such a compass representation was recently discovered in a neural population in the Drosophila melanogaster central complex, a brain region implicated in spatial navigation. Here, we use two-photon calcium imaging and electrophysiology in head-fixed walking flies to identify a different neural population that conjunctively encodes heading and angular velocity, and is excited selectively by turns in either the clockwise or counterclockwise direction. We show how these mirror-symmetric turn responses combine with the neurons' connectivity to the compass neurons to create an elegant mechanism for updating the fly's heading representation when the animal turns in darkness. This mechanism, which employs recurrent loops with an angular shift, bears a resemblance to those proposed in theoretical models for rodent head direction cells. Our results provide a striking example of structure matching function for a broadly relevant computation.

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    05/09/17 | Representations of Novelty and Familiarity in a Mushroom Body Compartment.
    Hattori D, Aso Y, Swartz KJ, Rubin GM, Abbott LF, Axel R
    Cell. 2017 May 09;169(5):956-69. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.04.028

    Animals exhibit a behavioral response to novel sensory stimuli about which they have no prior knowledge. We have examined the neural and behavioral correlates of novelty and familiarity in the olfactory system of Drosophila. Novel odors elicit strong activity in output neurons (MBONs) of the α'3 compartment of the mushroom body that is rapidly suppressed upon repeated exposure to the same odor. This transition in neural activity upon familiarization requires odor-evoked activity in the dopaminergic neuron innervating this compartment. Moreover, exposure of a fly to novel odors evokes an alerting response that can also be elicited by optogenetic activation of α'3 MBONs. Silencing these MBONs eliminates the alerting behavior. These data suggest that the α'3 compartment plays a causal role in the behavioral response to novel and familiar stimuli as a consequence of dopamine-mediated plasticity at the Kenyon cell-MBONα'3 synapse.

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    04/22/17 | The comprehensive connectome of a neural substrate for 'ON' motion detection in Drosophila.
    Takemura S, Nern A, Chklovskii DB, Scheffer LK, Rubin GM, Meinertzhagen IA
    eLife. 2017 Apr 22;6:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.24394

    Analysing computations in neural circuits often uses simplified models because the actual neuronal implementation is not known. For example, a problem in vision, how the eye detects image motion, has long been analysed using Hassenstein-Reichardt (HR) detector or Barlow-Levick (BL) models. These both simulate motion detection well, but the exact neuronal circuits undertaking these tasks remain elusive. We reconstructed a comprehensive connectome of the circuits of Drosophila's motion-sensing T4 cells using a novel EM technique. We uncover complex T4 inputs and reveal that putative excitatory inputs cluster at T4's dendrite shafts, while inhibitory inputs localize to the bases. Consistent with our previous study, we reveal that Mi1 and Tm3 cells provide most synaptic contacts onto T4. We are, however, unable to reproduce the spatial offset between these cells reported previously. Our comprehensive connectome reveals complex circuits that include candidate anatomical substrates for both HR and BL types of motion detectors.

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    04/10/17 | Stem cell-intrinsic, seven-up-triggered temporal factor gradients diversify intermediate neural progenitors.
    Ren Q, Yang C, Liu Z, Sugino K, Mok K, He Y, Ito M, Nern A, Otsuna H, Lee T
    Current Biology : CB. 2017 Apr 10;27(9):1303-13. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.03.047

    Building a sizable, complex brain requires both cellular expansion and diversification. One mechanism to achieve these goals is production of multiple transiently amplifying intermediate neural progenitors (INPs) from a single neural stem cell. Like mammalian neural stem cells, Drosophila type II neuroblasts utilize INPs to produce neurons and glia. Within a given lineage, the consecutively born INPs produce morphologically distinct progeny, presumably due to differential inheritance of temporal factors. To uncover the underlying temporal fating mechanisms, we profiled type II neuroblasts' transcriptome across time. Our results reveal opposing temporal gradients of Imp and Syp RNA-binding proteins (descending and ascending, respectively). Maintaining high Imp throughout serial INP production expands the number of neurons and glia with early temporal fate at the expense of cells with late fate. Conversely, precocious upregulation of Syp reduces the number of cells with early fate. Furthermore, we reveal that the transcription factor Seven-up initiates progression of the Imp/Syp gradients. Interestingly, neuroblasts that maintain initial Imp/Syp levels can still yield progeny with a small range of early fates. We therefore propose that the Seven-up-initiated Imp/Syp gradients create coarse temporal windows within type II neuroblasts to pattern INPs, which subsequently undergo fine-tuned subtemporal patterning.

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    Rubin LabReiser LabFly Functional Connectome
    04/05/17 | The emergence of directional selectivity in the visual motion pathway of Drosophila.
    Strother JA, Wu S, Wong AM, Nern A, Rogers EM, Le JQ, Rubin GM, Reiser MB
    Neuron. 2017 Apr 05;94(1):168-182.e10. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2017.03.010

    The perception of visual motion is critical for animal navigation, and flies are a prominent model system for exploring this neural computation. In Drosophila, the T4 cells of the medulla are directionally selective and necessary for ON motion behavioral responses. To examine the emergence of directional selectivity, we developed genetic driver lines for the neuron types with the most synapses onto T4 cells. Using calcium imaging, we found that these neuron types are not directionally selective and that selectivity arises in the T4 dendrites. By silencing each input neuron type, we identified which neurons are necessary for T4 directional selectivity and ON motion behavioral responses. We then determined the sign of the connections between these neurons and T4 cells using neuronal photoactivation. Our results indicate a computational architecture for motion detection that is a hybrid of classic theoretical models.

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    03/06/17 | Moonwalker descending neurons mediate visually evoked retreat in Drosophila.
    Sen R, Wu M, Branson K, Robie A, Rubin GM, Dickson BJ
    Current Biology : CB. 2017 Mar 6;27(5):766-71. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.02.008

    Insects, like most animals, tend to steer away from imminent threats [1-7]. Drosophila melanogaster, for example, generally initiate an escape take-off in response to a looming visual stimulus, mimicking a potential predator [8]. The escape response to a visual threat is, however, flexible [9-12] and can alternatively consist of walking backward away from the perceived threat [11], which may be a more effective response to ambush predators such as nymphal praying mantids [7]. Flexibility in escape behavior may also add an element of unpredictability that makes it difficult for predators to anticipate or learn the prey's likely response [3-6]. Whereas the fly's escape jump has been well studied [8, 9, 13-18], the neuronal underpinnings of evasive walking remain largely unexplored. We previously reported the identification of a cluster of descending neurons-the moonwalker descending neurons (MDNs)-the activity of which is necessary and sufficient to trigger backward walking [19], as well as a population of visual projection neurons-the lobula columnar 16 (LC16) cells-that respond to looming visual stimuli and elicit backward walking and turning [11]. Given the similarity of their activation phenotypes, we hypothesized that LC16 neurons induce backward walking via MDNs and that turning while walking backward might reflect asymmetric activation of the left and right MDNs. Here, we present data from functional imaging, behavioral epistasis, and unilateral activation experiments that support these hypotheses. We conclude that LC16 and MDNs are critical components of the neural circuit that transduces threatening visual stimuli into directional locomotor output.

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    03/01/17 | A new brain dopamine deficient Drosophila and its pharmacological and genetic rescue.
    Cichewicz K, Garren EJ, Adiele C, Aso Y, Wang Z, Wu M, Birman S, Rubin GM, Hirsh J
    Genes, Brain, and Behavior. 2017 Mar.01 ;16(3):394-403. doi: 10.1111/gbb.12353

    Dopamine (DA) is a neurotransmitter with conserved behavioral roles between invertebrate and vertebrate animals. In addition to its neural functions, in insects DA is a critical substrate for cuticle pigmentation and hardening. Drosophila tyrosine hydroxylase (DTH) is the rate limiting enzyme for DA biosynthesis. Viable brain DA deficient flies were previously generated using tissue selective GAL4-UAS binary expression rescue of a DTH null mutation and these flies show specific behavioral impairments. To circumvent the limitations of rescue via binary expression, here we achieve rescue utilizing genomically integrated mutant DTH. As expected, our DA deficient flies have no detectable DTH or DA in the brain, and show reduced locomotor activity. This deficit can be rescued by L-DOPA/carbidopa feeding, similar to human Parkinson's disease treatment. Genetic rescue via GAL4/UAS-DTH was also successful, although this required the generation of a new UAS-DTH1 transgene devoid of most untranslated regions, since existing UAS-DTH transgenes express in the brain without a Gal4 driver via endogenous regulatory elements. A surprising finding of our newly constructed UAS-DTH1m is that it expresses DTH at an undetectable level when regulated by dopaminergic GAL4 drivers even when fully rescuing DA, indicating that DTH immunostaining is not necessarily a valid marker for DA expression. This finding necessitated optimizing DA immunohistochemistry, revealing details of DA innervation to the mushroom body and the central complex. When DA rescue is limited to specific DA neurons, DA does not diffuse beyond the DTH-expressing terminals, such that DA signaling can be limited to very specific brain regions.

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    01/30/17 | The glia of the adult Drosophila nervous system.
    Kremer MC, Jung C, Batelli S, Rubin GM, Gaul U
    Glia. 2017 Jan 30;65(4):606-38. doi: 10.1002/glia.23115

    Glia play crucial roles in the development and homeostasis of the nervous system. While the GLIA in the Drosophila embryo have been well characterized, their study in the adult nervous system has been limited. Here, we present a detailed description of the glia in the adult nervous system, based on the analysis of some 500 glial drivers we identified within a collection of synthetic GAL4 lines. We find that glia make up ∼10% of the cells in the nervous system and envelop all compartments of neurons (soma, dendrites, axons) as well as the nervous system as a whole. Our morphological analysis suggests a set of simple rules governing the morphogenesis of glia and their interactions with other cells. All glial subtypes minimize contact with their glial neighbors but maximize their contact with neurons and adapt their macromorphology and micromorphology to the neuronal entities they envelop. Finally, glial cells show no obvious spatial organization or registration with neuronal entities. Our detailed description of all glial subtypes and their regional specializations, together with the powerful genetic toolkit we provide, will facilitate the functional analysis of glia in the mature nervous system. GLIA 2017.

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    12/28/16 | Visual projection neurons in the Drosophila lobula link feature detection to distinct behavioral programs.
    Wu M, Nern A, Williamson WR, Morimoto MM, Reiser MB, Card GM, Rubin GM
    eLife. 2016 Dec 28;5:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.21022

    Visual projection neurons (VPNs) provide an anatomical connection between early visual processing and higher brain regions. Here we characterize lobula columnar (LC) cells, a class of Drosophila VPNs that project to distinct central brain structures called optic glomeruli. We anatomically describe 22 different LC types and show that, for several types, optogenetic activation in freely moving flies evokes specific behaviors. The activation phenotypes of two LC types closely resemble natural avoidance behaviors triggered by a visual loom. In vivo two-photon calcium imaging reveals that these LC types respond to looming stimuli, while another type does not, but instead responds to the motion of a small object. Activation of LC neurons on only one side of the brain can result in attractive or aversive turning behaviors depending on the cell type. Our results indicate that LC neurons convey information on the presence and location of visual features relevant for specific behaviors.

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    07/21/16 | Dopaminergic neurons write and update memories with cell-type-specific rules.
    Aso Y, Rubin GM
    eLife. 2016 Jul 21;5:e16135. doi: 10.7554/eLife.16135

    Associative learning is thought to involve parallel and distributed mechanisms of memory formation and storage. In Drosophila, the mushroom body (MB) is the major site of associative odor memory formation. Previously we described the anatomy of the adult MB and defined 20 types of dopaminergic neurons (DANs) that each innervate distinct MB compartments (Aso et al., 2014a; Aso et al., 2014b). Here we compare the properties of memories formed by optogenetic activation of individual DAN cell types. We found extensive differences in training requirements for memory formation, decay dynamics, storage capacity and flexibility to learn new associations. Even a single DAN cell type can either write or reduce an aversive memory, or write an appetitive memory, depending on when it is activated relative to odor delivery. Our results show that different learning rules are executed in seemingly parallel memory systems, providing multiple distinct circuit-based strategies to predict future events from past experiences.

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