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18 Janelia Publications

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    04/07/20 | Conservation and divergence of related neuronal lineages in the central brain.
    Lee Y, Yang C, Miyares RL, Huang Y, He Y, Ren Q, Chen H, Kawase T, Ito M, Otsuna H, Sugino K, Aso Y, Ito K, Lee T
    eLife. 2020 Apr 07;9:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.53518

    Wiring a complex brain requires many neurons with intricate cell specificity, generated by a limited number of neural stem cells. central brain lineages are a predetermined series of neurons, born in a specific order. To understand how lineage identity translates to neuron morphology, we mapped 18 central brain lineages. While we found large aggregate differences between lineages, we also discovered shared patterns of morphological diversification. Lineage identity plus Notch-mediated sister fate govern primary neuron trajectories, whereas temporal fate diversifies terminal elaborations. Further, morphological neuron types may arise repeatedly, interspersed with other types. Despite the complexity, related lineages produce similar neuron types in comparable temporal patterns. Different stem cells even yield two identical series of dopaminergic neuron types, but with unrelated sister neurons. Together, these phenomena suggest that straightforward rules drive incredible neuronal complexity, and that large changes in morphology can result from relatively simple fating mechanisms.

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    03/23/20 | Recurrent architecture for adaptive regulation of learning in the insect brain.
    Eschbach C, Fushiki A, Winding M, Schneider-Mizell CM, Shao M, Arruda R, Eichler K, Valdes-Aleman J, Ohyama T, Thum AS, Gerber B, Fetter RD, Truman JW, Litwin-Kumar A, Cardona A, Zlatic M, Cardona A, Zlatic M
    Nature Neuroscience. 2020 Mar 23;23(4):544-55. doi: 10.1038/s41593-020-0607-9

    Dopaminergic neurons (DANs) drive learning across the animal kingdom, but the upstream circuits that regulate their activity and thereby learning remain poorly understood. We provide a synaptic-resolution connectome of the circuitry upstream of all DANs in a learning center, the mushroom body of Drosophila larva. We discover afferent sensory pathways and a large population of neurons that provide feedback from mushroom body output neurons and link distinct memory systems (aversive and appetitive). We combine this with functional studies of DANs and their presynaptic partners and with comprehensive circuit modeling. We find that DANs compare convergent feedback from aversive and appetitive systems, which enables the computation of integrated predictions that may improve future learning. Computational modeling reveals that the discovered feedback motifs increase model flexibility and performance on learning tasks. Our study provides the most detailed view to date of biological circuit motifs that support associative learning.

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    03/02/20 | Neural circuitry linking mating and egg laying in Drosophila females.
    Wang F, Wang K, Forknall N, Patrick C, Yang T, Parekh R, Bock D, Dickson BJ
    Nature. 2020 Mar 02;579(7797):101-105. doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2055-9

    Mating and egg laying are tightly cooordinated events in the reproductive life of all oviparous females. Oviposition is typically rare in virgin females but is initiated after copulation. Here we identify the neural circuitry that links egg laying to mating status in Drosophila melanogaster. Activation of female-specific oviposition descending neurons (oviDNs) is necessary and sufficient for egg laying, and is equally potent in virgin and mated females. After mating, sex peptide-a protein from the male seminal fluid-triggers many behavioural and physiological changes in the female, including the onset of egg laying. Sex peptide is detected by sensory neurons in the uterus, and silences these neurons and their postsynaptic ascending neurons in the abdominal ganglion. We show that these abdominal ganglion neurons directly activate the female-specific pC1 neurons. GABAergic (γ-aminobutyric-acid-releasing) oviposition inhibitory neurons (oviINs) mediate feed-forward inhibition from pC1 neurons to both oviDNs and their major excitatory input, the oviposition excitatory neurons (oviENs). By attenuating the abdominal ganglion inputs to pC1 neurons and oviINs, sex peptide disinhibits oviDNs to enable egg laying after mating. This circuitry thus coordinates the two key events in female reproduction: mating and egg laying.

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    01/15/20 | A genetic, genomic, and computational resource for exploring neural circuit function.
    Davis FP, Nern A, Picard S, Reiser MB, Rubin GM, Eddy SR, Henry GL
    eLife. 2020 Jan 15;9:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.50901

    The anatomy of many neural circuits is being characterized with increasing resolution, but their molecular properties remain mostly unknown. Here, we characterize gene expression patterns in distinct neural cell types of the visual system using genetic lines to access individual cell types, the TAPIN-seq method to measure their transcriptomes, and a probabilistic method to interpret these measurements. We used these tools to build a resource of high-resolution transcriptomes for 100 driver lines covering 67 cell types, available at Combining these transcriptomes with recently reported connectomes helps characterize how information is transmitted and processed across a range of scales, from individual synapses to circuit pathways. We describe examples that include identifying neurotransmitters, including cases of apparent co-release, generating functional hypotheses based on receptor expression, as well as identifying strong commonalities between different cell types.

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    11/14/19 | Nitric oxide acts as a cotransmitter in a subset of dopaminergic neurons to diversify memory dynamics.
    Aso Y, Ray RP, Long X, Bushey D, Cichewicz K, Ngo T, Sharp B, Christoforou C, Hu A, Lemire AL, Tillberg P, Hirsh J, Litwin-Kumar A, Rubin GM
    eLife. 2019 Nov 14;8:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.49257

    Animals employ diverse learning rules and synaptic plasticity dynamics to record temporal and statistical information about the world. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying this diversity are poorly understood. The anatomically defined compartments of the insect mushroom body function as parallel units of associative learning, with different learning rates, memory decay dynamics and flexibility (Aso & Rubin 2016). Here we show that nitric oxide (NO) acts as a neurotransmitter in a subset of dopaminergic neurons in . NO's effects develop more slowly than those of dopamine and depend on soluble guanylate cyclase in postsynaptic Kenyon cells. NO acts antagonistically to dopamine; it shortens memory retention and facilitates the rapid updating of memories. The interplay of NO and dopamine enables memories stored in local domains along Kenyon cell axons to be specialized for predicting the value of odors based only on recent events. Our results provide key mechanistic insights into how diverse memory dynamics are established in parallel memory systems.

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    05/21/19 | Neurogenetic dissection of the lateral horn reveals major outputs, diverse behavioural functions, and interactions with the mushroom body.
    Dolan M, Frechter S, Bates AS, Dan C, Huoviala P, Roberts RJ, Schlegel P, Dhawan S, Tabano R, Dionne H, Christoforou C, Close K, Sutcliffe B, Giuliani B, Li F, Costa M, Ihrke G, Meissner GW, Bock DD, Aso Y, Rubin GM, Jefferis GS
    Elife. 2019 May 21;8:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.43079

    Animals exhibit innate behaviours to a variety of sensory stimuli including olfactory cues. In , one higher olfactory centre, the lateral horn (LH), is implicated in innate behaviour. However, our structural and functional understanding of the LH is scant, in large part due to a lack of sparse neurogenetic tools for this region. We generate a collection of split-GAL4 driver lines providing genetic access to 82 LH cell types. We use these to create an anatomical and neurotransmitter map of the LH and link this to EM connectomics data. We find ~30% of LH projections converge with outputs from the mushroom body, site of olfactory learning and memory. Using optogenetic activation, we identify LH cell types that drive changes in valence behavior or specific locomotor programs. In summary, we have generated a resource for manipulating and mapping LH neurons, providing new insights into the circuit basis of innate and learned olfactory behavior.

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    02/28/19 | Neural basis for looming size and velocity encoding in the Drosophila giant fiber escape pathway.
    Ache JM, Polsky J, Alghailani S, Parekh R, Breads P, Peek MY, Bock DD, von Reyn CR, Card GM
    Current Biology : CB. 2019 Feb 28;29(6):1073. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.01.079

    Identified neuron classes in vertebrate cortical [1-4] and subcortical [5-8] areas and invertebrate peripheral [9-11] and central [12-14] brain neuropils encode specific visual features of a panorama. How downstream neurons integrate these features to control vital behaviors, like escape, is unclear [15]. In Drosophila, the timing of a single spike in the giant fiber (GF) descending neuron [16-18] determines whether a fly uses a short or long takeoff when escaping a looming predator [13]. We previously proposed that GF spike timing results from summation of two visual features whose detection is highly conserved across animals [19]: an object's subtended angular size and its angular velocity [5-8, 11, 20, 21]. We attributed velocity encoding to input from lobula columnar type 4 (LC4) visual projection neurons, but the size-encoding source remained unknown. Here, we show that lobula plate/lobula columnar, type 2 (LPLC2) visual projection neurons anatomically specialized to detect looming [22] provide the entire GF size component. We find LPLC2 neurons to be necessary for GF-mediated escape and show that LPLC2 and LC4 synapse directly onto the GF via reconstruction in a fly brain electron microscopy (EM) volume [23]. LPLC2 silencing eliminates the size component of the GF looming response in patch-clamp recordings, leaving only the velocity component. A model summing a linear function of angular velocity (provided by LC4) and a Gaussian function of angular size (provided by LPLC2) replicates GF looming response dynamics and predicts the peak response time. We thus present an identified circuit in which information from looming feature-detecting neurons is combined by a common post-synaptic target to determine behavioral output.

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    12/18/18 | Mapping Neurotransmitter Identity in the Whole-Mount Brain Using Multiplex High-Throughput Fluorescence Hybridization.
    Meissner GW, Nern A, Singer RH, Wong AM, Malkesman O, Long X
    Genetics. 2018 Dec 18;211(2):473-82. doi: 10.1534/genetics.118.301749

    Identifying the neurotransmitters used by specific neurons is a critical step in understanding the function of neural circuits. However, methods for the consistent and efficient detection of neurotransmitter markers remain limited. Fluorescence hybridization (FISH) enables direct labeling of type-specific mRNA in neurons. Recent advances in FISH allow this technique to be carried out in intact tissue samples such as whole-mount brains. Here, we present a FISH platform for high-throughput detection of eight common neurotransmitter phenotypes in brains. We greatly increase FISH throughput by processing samples mounted on coverslips and optimizing fluorophore choice for each probe to facilitate multiplexing. As application examples, we demonstrate cases of neurotransmitter co-expression, reveal neurotransmitter phenotypes of specific cell types and explore the onset of neurotransmitter expression in the developing optic lobe. Beyond neurotransmitter markers, our protocols can in principle be used for large scale FISH detection of any mRNA in whole-mount fly brains.

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    09/19/18 | Communication from learned to innate olfactory processing centers is required for memory retrieval in Drosophila.
    Dolan M, Belliart-Guérin G, Bates AS, Frechter S, Lampin-Saint-Amaux A, Aso Y, Roberts RJ, Schlegel P, Wong A, Hammad A, Bock D, Rubin GM, Preat T, Placais P, Jefferis GS
    Neuron. 2018 Sep 19;100(3):651-68. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2018.08.037

    The behavioral response to a sensory stimulus may depend on both learned and innate neuronal representations. How these circuits interact to produce appropriate behavior is unknown. In Drosophila, the lateral horn (LH) and mushroom body (MB) are thought to mediate innate and learned olfactory behavior, respectively, although LH function has not been tested directly. Here we identify two LH cell types (PD2a1 and PD2b1) that receive input from an MB output neuron required for recall of aversive olfactory memories. These neurons are required for aversive memory retrieval and modulated by training. Connectomics data demonstrate that PD2a1 and PD2b1 neurons also receive direct input from food odor-encoding neurons. Consistent with this, PD2a1 and PD2b1 are also necessary for unlearned attraction to some odors, indicating that these neurons have a dual behavioral role. This provides a circuit mechanism by which learned and innate olfactory information can interact in identified neurons to produce appropriate behavior.

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    08/15/18 | Optimization of fluorophores for chemical tagging and immunohistochemistry of Drosophila neurons.
    Meissner GW, Grimm JB, Johnston RM, Sutcliffe B, Ng J, Jefferis GS, Cachero S, Lavis LD, Malkesman O
    PLoS One. 2018 Aug 15;13(8):e0200759. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0200759

    The use of genetically encoded 'self-labeling tags' with chemical fluorophore ligands enables rapid labeling of specific cells in neural tissue. To improve the chemical tagging of neurons, we synthesized and evaluated new fluorophore ligands based on Cy, Janelia Fluor, Alexa Fluor, and ATTO dyes and tested these with recently improved Drosophila melanogaster transgenes. We found that tissue clearing and mounting in DPX substantially improves signal quality when combined with specific non-cyanine fluorophores. We compared and combined this labeling technique with standard immunohistochemistry in the Drosophila brain.

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