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131 Publications

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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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    04/15/16 | Direct neural pathways convey distinct visual information to Drosophila mushroom bodies.
    Vogt K, Aso Y, Hige T, Knapek S, Ichinose T, Friedrich AB, Turner GC, Rubin GM, Tanimoto H
    eLife. 2016 Apr 15;5:e14009. doi: 10.7554/eLife.14009

    Previously, we identified that visual and olfactory associative memories of Drosophila share the mushroom body (MB) circuits (Vogt et al. 2014). Despite well-characterized odor representations in the Drosophila MB, the MB circuit for visual information is totally unknown. Here we show that a small subset of MB Kenyon cells (KCs) selectively responds to visual but not olfactory stimulation. The dendrites of these atypical KCs form a ventral accessory calyx (vAC), distinct from the main calyx that receives olfactory input. We identified two types of visual projection neurons (VPNs) directly connecting the optic lobes and the vAC. Strikingly, these VPNs are differentially required for visual memories of color and brightness. The segregation of visual and olfactory domains in the MB allows independent processing of distinct sensory memories and may be a conserved form of sensory representations among insects.

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    12/29/15 | P1 interneurons promote a persistent internal state that enhances inter-male aggression in Drosophila.
    Hoopfer ED, Jung Y, Inagaki HK, Rubin GM, Anderson DJ
    eLife. 2015 Dec 29;4:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.11346

    How brains are hardwired to produce aggressive behavior, and how aggression circuits are related to those that mediate courtship, is not well understood. A large-scale screen for aggression-promoting neurons in Drosophila identified several independent hits that enhanced both inter-male aggression and courtship. Genetic intersections revealed that 8-10 P1 interneurons, previously thought to exclusively control male courtship, were sufficient to promote fighting. Optogenetic experiments indicated that P1 activation could promote aggression at a threshold below that required for wing extension. P1 activation in the absence of wing extension triggered persistent aggression via an internal state that could endure for minutes. High-frequency P1 activation promoted wing extension and suppressed aggression during photostimulation, whereas aggression resumed and wing extension was inhibited following photostimulation offset. Thus, P1 neuron activation promotes a latent, internal state that facilitates aggression and courtship, and controls the overt expression of these social behaviors in a threshold-dependent, inverse manner.

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    12/17/15 | Ig superfamily ligand and receptor pairs expressed in synaptic partners in Drosophila.
    Tan L, Zhang KX, Pecot MY, Nagarkar-Jaiswal S, Lee P, Takemura S, McEwen JM, Nern A, Xu S, Tadros W, Chen Z, Zinn K, Bellen HJ, Morey M, Zipursky SL
    Cell. 2015 Dec 17;163(7):1756-69. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2015.11.021

    Information processing relies on precise patterns of synapses between neurons. The cellular recognition mechanisms regulating this specificity are poorly understood. In the medulla of the Drosophila visual system, different neurons form synaptic connections in different layers. Here, we sought to identify candidate cell recognition molecules underlying this specificity. Using RNA sequencing (RNA-seq), we show that neurons with different synaptic specificities express unique combinations of mRNAs encoding hundreds of cell surface and secreted proteins. Using RNA-seq and protein tagging, we demonstrate that 21 paralogs of the Dpr family, a subclass of immunoglobulin (Ig)-domain containing proteins, are expressed in unique combinations in homologous neurons with different layer-specific synaptic connections. Dpr interacting proteins (DIPs), comprising nine paralogs of another subclass of Ig-containing proteins, are expressed in a complementary layer-specific fashion in a subset of synaptic partners. We propose that pairs of Dpr/DIP paralogs contribute to layer-specific patterns of synaptic connectivity.

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    12/02/15 | Heterosynaptic plasticity underlies aversive olfactory learning in Drosophila
    Hige T, Aso Y, Modi M, Rubin GM, Turner GC
    Neuron. 2015 Dec 2;88(5):985-98. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2015.11.003

    Although associative learning has been localized to specific brain areas in many animals, identifying the underlying synaptic processes in vivo has been difficult. Here, we provide the first demonstration of long-term synaptic plasticity at the output site of the Drosophila mushroom body. Pairing an odor with activation of specific dopamine neurons induces both learning and odor-specific synaptic depression. The plasticity induction strictly depends on the temporal order of the two stimuli, replicating the logical requirement for associative learning. Furthermore, we reveal that dopamine action is confined to and distinct across different anatomical compartments of the mushroom body lobes. Finally, we find that overlap between sparse representations of different odors defines both stimulus specificity of the plasticity and generalizability of associative memories across odors. Thus, the plasticity we find here not only manifests important features of associative learning but also provides general insights into how a sparse sensory code is read out.

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    11/18/15 | Reward signal in a recurrent circuit drives appetitive long-term memory formation.
    Ichinose T, Aso Y, Yamagata N, Abe A, Rubin GM, Tanimoto H
    eLife. 2015 Nov 18;4:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.10719

    Dopamine signals reward in animal brains. A single presentation of a sugar reward to Drosophila activates distinct subsets of dopamine neurons that independently induce short- and long-term olfactory memories (STM and LTM, respectively). In this study, we show that a recurrent reward circuit underlies the formation and consolidation of LTM. This feedback circuit is composed of a single class of reward-signaling dopamine neurons (PAM-α1) projecting to a restricted region of the mushroom body (MB), and a specific MB output cell type, MBON-α1, whose dendrites arborize that same MB compartment. Both MBON-α1 and PAM-α1 neurons are required during the acquisition and consolidation of appetitive LTM. MBON-α1 additionally mediates the retrieval of LTM, which is dependent on the dopamine receptor signaling in the MB α/β neurons. Our results suggest that a reward signal transforms a nascent memory trace into a stable LTM using a feedback circuit at the cost of memory specificity.

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