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5 Janelia Publications

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    11/22/19 | TwoLumps ascending neurons mediate touch-evoked reversal of walking direction in Drosophila.
    Sen R, Wang K, Dickson BJ
    Current Biology. 2019 Nov 22;29(24):4337-44. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.11.004

    External cues, including touch, enable walking animals to flexibly maneuver around obstacles and extricate themselves from dead-ends (for reviews, see [1-3]). In a screen for neurons that enable Drosophila melanogaster to retreat when it encounters a dead-end, we identified a pair of ascending neurons, the TwoLumps Ascending (TLA) neurons. Silencing TLA activity impairs backward locomotion, whereas optogenetic activation triggers backward walking. TLA-induced reversal is mediated in part by the Moonwalker Descending Neurons (MDNs) [4], which receive excitatory input from the TLAs. Silencing the TLAs decreases the extent to which freely walking flies back up upon encountering a physical barrier in the dark, and TLAs show calcium responses to optogenetic activation of neurons expressing the mechanosensory channel NOMPC. We infer that TLAs convey feedforward mechanosensory stimuli to transiently activate MDNs in response to anterior body touch.

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    07/06/19 | Cellular level analysis of the locomotor neural circuits in Drosophila melanogaster.
    minegishi r, Feng K, Dickson B
    Biomimetic and Biohybrid Systems. 2019 Jul 6:334-7
    03/12/19 | Split-QF system for fine-tuned transgene expression in Drosophila.
    Riabinina O, Vernon SW, Dickson BJ, Baines RA
    Genetics. 2019 Mar 12;212(1):53-63. doi: 10.1534/genetics.119.302034

    The Q-system is a binary expression system that works well across species. Here we report the development and demonstrate applications of a split-QF system that drives strong expression in , is repressible by QS and inducible by a small non-toxic molecule quinic acid. The split-QF system is fully compatible with existing split-GAL4 and split-LexA lines, thus greatly expanding the range of possible advanced intersectional experiments and anatomical, physiological and behavioural assays in and in other organisms.

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    03/08/19 | Neural evolution of context-dependent fly song.
    Ding Y, Lillvis JL, Cande J, Berman GJ, Arthur BJ, Long X, Xu M, Dickson BJ, Stern DL
    Current Biology : CB. 2019 Mar 08;29(7):1089-99. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.02.019

    It is unclear where in the nervous system evolutionary changes tend to occur. To localize the source of neural evolution that has generated divergent behaviors, we developed a new approach to label and functionally manipulate homologous neurons across Drosophila species. We examined homologous descending neurons that drive courtship song in two species that sing divergent song types and localized relevant evolutionary changes in circuit function downstream of the intrinsic physiology of these descending neurons. This evolutionary change causes different species to produce divergent motor patterns in similar social contexts. Artificial stimulation of these descending neurons drives multiple song types, suggesting that multifunctional properties of song circuits may facilitate rapid evolution of song types.

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    01/07/19 | Threshold-based ordering of sequential actions during Drosophila courtship.
    McKellar CE, Lillvis JL, Bath DE, Fitzgerald JE, Cannon JG, Simpson JH, Dickson BJ
    Current Biology : CB. 2019 Jan 07;29(3):426-34. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.12.019

    Goal-directed animal behaviors are typically composed of sequences of motor actions whose order and timing are critical for a successful outcome. Although numerous theoretical models for sequential action generation have been proposed, few have been supported by the identification of control neurons sufficient to elicit a sequence. Here, we identify a pair of descending neurons that coordinate a stereotyped sequence of engagement actions during Drosophila melanogaster male courtship behavior. These actions are initiated sequentially but persist cumulatively, a feature not explained by existing models of sequential behaviors. We find evidence consistent with a ramp-to-threshold mechanism, in which increasing neuronal activity elicits each action independently at successively higher activity thresholds.

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