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13 Janelia Publications

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    01/04/21 | Neuromolecular and behavioral effects of ethanol deprivation in Drosophila
    Natalie M. D’Silva , Katie S. McCullar , Ashley M. Conard , Tyler Blackwater , Reza Azanchi , Ulrike Heberlein , Erica Larschan , Karla R. Kaun
    bioRxiv. 2021 Jan 04:. doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.01.02.425101

    Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is characterized by loss of control in limiting alcohol intake. This may involve intermittent periods of abstinence followed by alcohol seeking and, consequently, relapse. However, little is understood of the molecular mechanisms underlying the impact of alcohol deprivation on behavior. Using a new Drosophila melanogaster repeated intermittent alcohol exposure model, we sought to identify how ethanol deprivation alters spontaneous behavior, determine the associated neural structures, and reveal correlated changes in brain gene expression. We found that repeated intermittent ethanol-odor exposures followed by ethanol-deprivation dynamically induces behaviors associated with a negative affect state. Although behavioral states broadly mapped to many brain regions, persistent changes in social behaviors mapped to the mushroom body and surrounding neuropil. This occurred concurrently with changes in expression of genes associated with sensory responses, neural plasticity, and immunity. Like social behaviors, immune response genes were upregulated following three-day repeated intermittent ethanol-odor exposures and persisted with one or two days of ethanol-deprivation, suggesting an enduring change in molecular function. Our study provides a framework for identifying how ethanol deprivation alters behavior with correlated underlying circuit and molecular changes.

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    12/02/20 | Social hierarchy is established and maintained with distinct acts of aggression in male .
    Simon JC, Heberlein U
    Journal of Experimental Biology. 2020 Dec 02:. doi: 10.1242/jeb.232439

    Social interactions pivot on an animal's experiences, internal states, and feedback from others. This complexity drives the need for precise descriptions of behavior to dissect the fine detail of its genetic and neural circuit bases. In laboratory assays, male reliably exhibit aggression, and its extent is generally measured by scoring lunges, a feature of aggression in which one male quickly thrusts onto his opponent. Here, we introduce an explicit approach to identify both the onset and reversals in hierarchical status between opponents and observe that distinct aggressive acts reproducibly precede, concur, or follow the establishment of dominance. We find that lunges are insufficient for establishing dominance. Rather, lunges appear to reflect the dominant state of a male and help in maintaining his social status. Lastly, we characterize the recurring and escalating structure of aggression that emerges through subsequent reversals in dominance. Collectively, this work provides a framework for studying the complexity of agonistic interactions in male flies enabling its neurogenetic basis to be understood with precision.

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    02/17/20 | Behavioral features of motivated response to alcohol in Drosophila.
    Catalano JL, Mei N, Azanchi R, Song S, Blackwater T, Heberlein U, Kaun KR
    bioRxiv. 2020 Feb 17:

    Animals avoid predators and find the best food and mates by learning from the consequences of their behavior. However, reinforcers are not always uniquely appetitive or aversive but can have complex properties. Most intoxicating substances fall within this category; provoking aversive sensory and physiological reactions while simultaneously inducing overwhelming appetitive properties. Here we describe the subtle behavioral features associated with continued seeking for alcohol despite aversive consequences. We developed an automated runway apparatus to measure how Drosophila respond to consecutive exposures of a volatilized substance. Behavior within this Behavioral Expression of Ethanol Reinforcement Runway (BEER Run) demonstrated a defined shift from aversive to appetitive responses to volatilized ethanol. Behavioral metrics attained by combining computer vision and machine learning methods, reveal that a subset of 9 classified behaviors and component behavioral features associate with this shift. We propose this combination of 9 be

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    04/26/19 | A neural circuit encoding the experience of copulation in female Drosophila.
    Shao L, Chung P, Wong A, Siwanowicz I, Kent CF, Long X, Heberlein U
    Neuron. 2019 Apr 26;102(5):1025. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2019.04.009

    Female behavior changes profoundly after mating. In Drosophila, the mechanisms underlying the long-term changes led by seminal products have been extensively studied. However, the effect of the sensory component of copulation on the female's internal state and behavior remains elusive. We pursued this question by dissociating the effect of coital sensory inputs from those of male ejaculate. We found that the sensory inputs of copulation cause a reduction of post-coital receptivity in females, referred to as the "copulation effect." We identified three layers of a neural circuit underlying this phenomenon. Abdominal neurons expressing the mechanosensory channel Piezo convey the signal of copulation to female-specific ascending neurons, LSANs, in the ventral nerve cord. LSANs relay this information to neurons expressing myoinhibitory peptides in the brain. We hereby provide a neural mechanism by which the experience of copulation facilitates females encoding their mating status, thus adjusting behavior to optimize reproduction.

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    BACKGROUND: Epigenetic mechanisms play fundamental roles in brain function and behavior and stressors such as social isolation can alter animal behavior via epigenetic mechanisms. However, due to cellular heterogeneity, identifying cell-type-specific epigenetic changes in the brain is challenging. Here, we report the first use of a modified isolation of nuclei tagged in specific cell type (INTACT) method in behavioral epigenetics of Drosophila melanogaster, a method we call mini-INTACT.

    RESULTS: Using ChIP-seq on mini-INTACT purified dopaminergic nuclei, we identified epigenetic signatures in socially isolated and socially enriched Drosophila males. Social experience altered the epigenetic landscape in clusters of genes involved in transcription and neural function. Some of these alterations could be predicted by expression changes of four transcription factors and the prevalence of their binding sites in several clusters. These transcription factors were previously identified as activity-regulated genes, and their knockdown in dopaminergic neurons reduced the effects of social experience on sleep.

    CONCLUSIONS: Our work enables the use of Drosophila as a model for cell-type-specific behavioral epigenetics and establishes that social environment shifts the epigenetic landscape in dopaminergic neurons. Four activity-related transcription factors are required in dopaminergic neurons for the effects of social environment on sleep.

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    10/14/18 | Social isolation-induced epigenetic and transcriptional changes in Drosophila dopaminergic neurons.
    Agrawal P, Chung P, Heberlein U, Kent CF
    bioRxiv. 2018 Oct 14:. doi: 10.1101/443226

    Epigenetic mechanisms play fundamental roles in brain function and behavior and stressors such as social isolation can alter animal behavior via epigenetic mechanisms. However, due to cellular heterogeneity, identifying cell-type-specific epigenetic changes in the brain is challenging. Here we report first use of a modified INTACT method in behavioral epigenetics of Drosophila: a method we call mini-INTACT. Using ChIP-seq on mini-INTACT purified dopaminergic nuclei, we identified epigenetic signatures in socially-isolated and socially-enriched Drosophila males. Social experience altered the epigenetic landscape in clusters of genes involved in transcription and neural function. Some of these alterations were predicted by expression changes of four transcription factors and the prevalence of their binding sites in several clusters. These transcription factors were previously identified as activity-regulated genes and their knockdown in dopaminergic neurons reduced the effects of social experience on sleep. Our work enables the use of Drosophila as a model for cell-type-specific behavioral epigenetics.

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    05/07/18 | Ejaculation induced by the activation of Crz neurons is rewarding to Drosophila males.
    Zer-Krispil S, Zak H, Shao L, Ben-Shaanan S, Tordjman L, Bentzur A, Shmueli A, Shohat-Ophir G
    Current Biology : CB. 2018 May 07;28(9):1445-1452.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.03.039

    The reward system is a collection of circuits that reinforce behaviors necessary for survival [1, 2]. Given the importance of reproduction for survival, actions that promote successful mating induce pleasurable feeling and are positively reinforced [3, 4]. This principle is conserved in Drosophila, where successful copulation is naturally rewarding to male flies, induces long-term appetitive memories [5], increases brain levels of neuropeptide F (NPF, the fly homolog of neuropeptide Y), and prevents ethanol, known otherwise as rewarding to flies [6, 7], from being rewarding [5]. It is not clear which of the multiple sensory and motor responses performed during mating induces perception of reward. Sexual interactions with female flies that do not reach copulation are not sufficient to reduce ethanol consumption [5], suggesting that only successful mating encounters are rewarding. Here, we uncoupled the initial steps of mating from its final steps and tested the ability of ejaculation to mimic the rewarding value of full copulation. We induced ejaculation by activating neurons that express the neuropeptide corazonin (CRZ) [8] and subsequently measured different aspects of reward. We show that activating Crz-expressing neurons is rewarding to male flies, as they choose to reside in a zone that triggers optogenetic stimulation of Crz neurons and display conditioned preference for an odor paired with the activation. Reminiscent of successful mating, repeated activation of Crz neurons increases npf levels and reduces ethanol consumption. Our results demonstrate that ejaculation stimulated by Crz/Crz-receptor signaling serves as an essential part of the mating reward mechanism in Drosophila. VIDEO ABSTRACT.

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    01/16/18 | Repetitive aggressive encounters generate a long-lasting internal state in Drosophila melanogaster males.
    Kim Y, Saver M, Simon J, Kent CF, Shao L, Eddison M, Agrawal P, Texada M, Truman JW, Heberlein U
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2018 Jan 16;115(5):1099-104. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1716612115

    Multiple studies have investigated the mechanisms of aggressive behavior in Drosophila; however, little is known about the effects of chronic fighting experience. Here, we investigated if repeated fighting encounters would induce an internal state that could affect the expression of subsequent behavior. We trained wild-type males to become winners or losers by repeatedly pairing them with hypoaggressive or hyperaggressive opponents, respectively. As described previously, we observed that chronic losers tend to lose subsequent fights, while chronic winners tend to win them. Olfactory conditioning experiments showed that winning is perceived as rewarding, while losing is perceived as aversive. Moreover, the effect of chronic fighting experience generalized to other behaviors, such as gap-crossing and courtship. We propose that in response to repeatedly winning or losing aggressive encounters, male flies form an internal state that displays persistence and generalization; fight outcomes can also have positive or negative valence. Furthermore, we show that the activities of the PPL1-γ1pedc dopaminergic neuron and the MBON-γ1pedc>α/β mushroom body output neuron are required for aversion to an olfactory cue associated with losing fights.

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    09/05/17 | Dissection of the Drosophila neuropeptide F circuit using a high-throughput two-choice assay.
    Shao L, Saver M, Chung P, Ren Q, Lee T, Kent CF, Heberlein U
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2017 Sep 05;114(38):e8091-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1710552114

    In their classic experiments, Olds and Milner showed that rats learn to lever press to receive an electric stimulus in specific brain regions. This led to the identification of mammalian reward centers. Our interest in defining the neuronal substrates of reward perception in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster prompted us to develop a simpler experimental approach wherein flies could implement behavior that induces self-stimulation of specific neurons in their brains. The high-throughput assay employs optogenetic activation of neurons when the fly occupies a specific area of a behavioral chamber, and the flies' preferential occupation of this area reflects their choosing to experience optogenetic stimulation. Flies in which neuropeptide F (NPF) neurons are activated display preference for the illuminated side of the chamber. We show that optogenetic activation of NPF neuron is rewarding in olfactory conditioning experiments and that the preference for NPF neuron activation is dependent on NPF signaling. Finally, we identify a small subset of NPF-expressing neurons located in the dorsomedial posterior brain that are sufficient to elicit preference in our assay. This assay provides the means for carrying out unbiased screens to map reward neurons in flies.

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    Heberlein LabSimpson Lab
    09/02/15 | A subset of serotonergic neurons evokes hunger in adult Drosophila.
    Albin SD, Kaun KR, Knapp J, Chung P, Heberlein U, Simpson JH
    Current Biology : CB. 2015 Sep 2;25(18):2435-40. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2015.08.005

    Hunger is a complex motivational state that drives multiple behaviors. The sensation of hunger is caused by an imbalance between energy intake and expenditure. One immediate response to hunger is increased food consumption. Hunger also modulates behaviors related to food seeking such as increased locomotion and enhanced sensory sensitivity in both insects [1-5] and vertebrates [6, 7]. In addition, hunger can promote the expression of food-associated memory [8, 9]. Although progress is being made [10], how hunger is represented in the brain and how it coordinates these behavioral responses is not fully understood in any system. Here, we use Drosophila melanogaster to identify neurons encoding hunger. We found a small group of neurons that, when activated, induced a fed fly to eat as though it were starved, suggesting that these neurons are downstream of the metabolic regulation of hunger. Artificially activating these neurons also promotes appetitive memory performance in sated flies, indicating that these neurons are not simply feeding command neurons but likely play a more general role in encoding hunger. We determined that the neurons relevant for the feeding effect are serotonergic and project broadly within the brain, suggesting a possible mechanism for how various responses to hunger are coordinated. These findings extend our understanding of the neural circuitry that drives feeding and enable future exploration of how state influences neural activity within this circuit.

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