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10 Janelia Publications

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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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    12/23/14 | Mushroom body output neurons encode valence and guide memory-based action selection in Drosophila.
    Aso Y, Sitaraman D, Ichinose T, Kaun KR, Vogt K, Belliart-Guérin G, Placais P, Robie AA, Yamagata N, Schnaitmann C, Rowell WJ, Johnston RM, Ngo TB, Chen N, Korff W, Nitabach MN, Heberlein U, Preat T, Branson KM, Tanimoto H, Rubin GM
    eLife. 12/2014;4:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.04580

    Animals discriminate stimuli, learn their predictive value and use this knowledge to modify their behavior. In Drosophila, the mushroom body (MB) plays a key role in these processes. Sensory stimuli are sparsely represented by ∼2000 Kenyon cells, which converge onto 34 output neurons (MBONs) of 21 types. We studied the role of MBONs in several associative learning tasks and in sleep regulation, revealing the extent to which information flow is segregated into distinct channels and suggesting possible roles for the multi-layered MBON network. We also show that optogenetic activation of MBONs can, depending on cell type, induce repulsion or attraction in flies. The behavioral effects of MBON perturbation are combinatorial, suggesting that the MBON ensemble collectively represents valence. We propose that local, stimulus-specific dopaminergic modulation selectively alters the balance within the MBON network for those stimuli. Our results suggest that valence encoded by the MBON ensemble biases memory-based action selection.

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    08/01/13 | Addiction.
    Everitt BJ, Heberlein U
    Current Opinion in Neurobiology. 2013 Aug;23(4):463-6. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2013.07.003

    Drug addiction and obesity share the core feature that those afflicted by the disorders express a desire to limit drug or food consumption yet persist despite negative consequences. Emerging evidence suggests that the compulsivity that defines these disorders may arise, to some degree at least, from common underlying neurobiological mechanisms. In particular, both disorders are associated with diminished striatal dopamine D2 receptor (D2R) availability, likely reflecting their decreased maturation and surface expression. In striatum, D2Rs are expressed by approximately half of the principal medium spiny projection neurons (MSNs), the striatopallidal neurons of the so-called 'indirect' pathway. D2Rs are also expressed presynaptically on dopamine terminals and on cholinergic interneurons. This heterogeneity of D2R expression has hindered attempts, largely using traditional pharmacological approaches, to understand their contribution to compulsive drug or food intake. The emergence of genetic technologies to target discrete populations of neurons, coupled to optogenetic and chemicogenetic tools to manipulate their activity, have provided a means to dissect striatopallidal and cholinergic contributions to compulsivity. Here, we review recent evidence supporting an important role for striatal D2R signaling in compulsive drug use and food intake. We pay particular attention to striatopallidal projection neurons and their role in compulsive responding for food and drugs. Finally, we identify opportunities for future obesity research using known mechanisms of addiction as a heuristic, and leveraging new tools to manipulate activity of specific populations of striatal neurons to understand their contributions to addiction and obesity.

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    03/16/12 | Sexual deprivation increases ethanol intake in Drosophila.
    Shohat-Ophir G, Kaun K, Azanchi R, Mohammed H, Heberlein U
    Science. 2012 Mar 16;335(6074):1351-5. doi: 10.1126/science.1215932

    The brain’s reward systems reinforce behaviors required for species survival, including sex, food consumption, and social interaction. Drugs of abuse co-opt these neural pathways, which can lead to addiction. Here, we used Drosophila melanogaster to investigate the relationship between natural and drug rewards. In males, mating increased, whereas sexual deprivation reduced, neuropeptide F (NPF) levels. Activation or inhibition of the NPF system in turn reduced or enhanced ethanol preference. These results thus link sexual experience, NPF system activity, and ethanol consumption. Artificial activation of NPF neurons was in itself rewarding and precluded the ability of ethanol to act as a reward. We propose that activity of the NPF-NPF receptor axis represents the state of the fly reward system and modifies behavior accordingly.

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