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14 Janelia Publications

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    03/14/22 | A population of descending neurons that regulates the flight motor of Drosophila.
    Namiki S, Ros IG, Morrow C, Rowell WJ, Card GM, Korff W, Dickinson MH
    Current Biology. 2022 Mar 14;32(5):1189-1196. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2022.01.008

    Similar to many insect species, Drosophila melanogaster is capable of maintaining a stable flight trajectory for periods lasting up to several hours. Because aerodynamic torque is roughly proportional to the fifth power of wing length, even small asymmetries in wing size require the maintenance of subtle bilateral differences in flapping motion to maintain a stable path. Flies can even fly straight after losing half of a wing, a feat they accomplish via very large, sustained kinematic changes to both the damaged and intact wings. Thus, the neural network responsible for stable flight must be capable of sustaining fine-scaled control over wing motion across a large dynamic range. In this study, we describe an unusual type of descending neuron (DNg02) that projects directly from visual output regions of the brain to the dorsal flight neuropil of the ventral nerve cord. Unlike many descending neurons, which exist as single bilateral pairs with unique morphology, there is a population of at least 15 DNg02 cell pairs with nearly identical shape. By optogenetically activating different numbers of DNg02 cells, we demonstrate that these neurons regulate wingbeat amplitude over a wide dynamic range via a population code. Using two-photon functional imaging, we show that DNg02 cells are responsive to visual motion during flight in a manner that would make them well suited to continuously regulate bilateral changes in wing kinematics. Collectively, we have identified a critical set of descending neurons that provides the sensitivity and dynamic range required for flight control.

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    02/01/22 | A neural circuit linking learning and sleep in Drosophila long-term memory.
    Lei Z, Henderson K, Keleman K
    Nature Communications. 2022 Feb 01;13(1):609. doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-28256-1

    Animals retain some but not all experiences in long-term memory (LTM). Sleep supports LTM retention across animal species. It is well established that learning experiences enhance post-learning sleep. However, the underlying mechanisms of how learning mediates sleep for memory retention are not clear. Drosophila males display increased amounts of sleep after courtship learning. Courtship learning depends on Mushroom Body (MB) neurons, and post-learning sleep is mediated by the sleep-promoting ventral Fan-Shaped Body neurons (vFBs). We show that post-learning sleep is regulated by two opposing output neurons (MBONs) from the MB, which encode a measure of learning. Excitatory MBONs-γ2α'1 becomes increasingly active upon increasing time of learning, whereas inhibitory MBONs-β'2mp is activated only by a short learning experience. These MB outputs are integrated by SFS neurons, which excite vFBs to promote sleep after prolonged but not short training. This circuit may ensure that only longer or more intense learning experiences induce sleep and are thereby consolidated into LTM.

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    12/06/21 | Functional architecture of neural circuits for leg proprioception in Drosophila.
    Chen C, Agrawal S, Mark B, Mamiya A, Sustar A, Phelps JS, Lee WA, Dickson BJ, Card GM, Tuthill JC
    Current Biology. 2021 Dec 06;31(23):5163. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2021.09.035

    To effectively control their bodies, animals rely on feedback from proprioceptive mechanosensory neurons. In the Drosophila leg, different proprioceptor subtypes monitor joint position, movement direction, and vibration. Here, we investigate how these diverse sensory signals are integrated by central proprioceptive circuits. We find that signals for leg joint position and directional movement converge in second-order neurons, revealing pathways for local feedback control of leg posture. Distinct populations of second-order neurons integrate tibia vibration signals across pairs of legs, suggesting a role in detecting external substrate vibration. In each pathway, the flow of sensory information is dynamically gated and sculpted by inhibition. Overall, our results reveal parallel pathways for processing of internal and external mechanosensory signals, which we propose mediate feedback control of leg movement and vibration sensing, respectively. The existence of a functional connectivity map also provides a resource for interpreting connectomic reconstruction of neural circuits for leg proprioception.

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    11/01/21 | Whole-cell organelle segmentation in volume electron microscopy.
    Heinrich L, Bennett D, Ackerman D, Park W, Bogovic J, Eckstein N, Petruncio A, Clements J, Pang S, Xu CS, Funke J, Korff W, Hess HF, Lippincott-Schwartz J, Saalfeld S, Weigel AV, COSEM Project Team
    Nature. 2021 Nov 01;599(7883):141-46. doi: 10.1038/s41586-021-03977-3

    Cells contain hundreds of organelles and macromolecular assemblies. Obtaining a complete understanding of their intricate organization requires the nanometre-level, three-dimensional reconstruction of whole cells, which is only feasible with robust and scalable automatic methods. Here, to support the development of such methods, we annotated up to 35 different cellular organelle classes-ranging from endoplasmic reticulum to microtubules to ribosomes-in diverse sample volumes from multiple cell types imaged at a near-isotropic resolution of 4 nm per voxel with focused ion beam scanning electron microscopy (FIB-SEM). We trained deep learning architectures to segment these structures in 4 nm and 8 nm per voxel FIB-SEM volumes, validated their performance and showed that automatic reconstructions can be used to directly quantify previously inaccessible metrics including spatial interactions between cellular components. We also show that such reconstructions can be used to automatically register light and electron microscopy images for correlative studies. We have created an open data and open-source web repository, 'OpenOrganelle', to share the data, computer code and trained models, which will enable scientists everywhere to query and further improve automatic reconstruction of these datasets.

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    01/01/21 | Neural circuit mechanisms of sexual receptivity in Drosophila females.
    Wang K, Wang F, Forknall N, Yang T, Patrick C, Parekh R, Dickson BJ
    Nature. 2021 Jan 01;589(7843):577-81. doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2972-7

    Choosing a mate is one of the most consequential decisions a female will make during her lifetime. A female fly signals her willingness to mate by opening her vaginal plates, allowing a courting male to copulate. Vaginal plate opening (VPO) occurs in response to the male courtship song and is dependent on the mating status of the female. How these exteroceptive (song) and interoceptive (mating status) inputs are integrated to regulate VPO remains unknown. Here we characterize the neural circuitry that implements mating decisions in the brain of female Drosophila melanogaster. We show that VPO is controlled by a pair of female-specific descending neurons (vpoDNs). The vpoDNs receive excitatory input from auditory neurons (vpoENs), which are tuned to specific features of the D. melanogaster song, and from pC1 neurons, which encode the mating status of the female. The song responses of vpoDNs, but not vpoENs, are attenuated upon mating, accounting for the reduced receptivity of mated females. This modulation is mediated by pC1 neurons. The vpoDNs thus directly integrate the external and internal signals that control the mating decisions of Drosophila females.

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    11/03/20 | Cell types and neuronal circuitry underlying female aggression in Drosophila.
    Schretter CE, Aso Y, Robie AA, Dreher M, Dolan M, Chen N, Ito M, Yang T, Parekh R, Branson KM, Rubin GM
    eLife. 2020 Nov 03;9:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.58942

    Aggressive social interactions are used to compete for limited resources and are regulated by complex sensory cues and the organism's internal state. While both sexes exhibit aggression, its neuronal underpinnings are understudied in females. Here, we identify a population of sexually dimorphic aIPg neurons in the adult central brain whose optogenetic activation increased, and genetic inactivation reduced, female aggression. Analysis of GAL4 lines identified in an unbiased screen for increased female chasing behavior revealed the involvement of another sexually dimorphic neuron, pC1d, and implicated aIPg and pC1d neurons as core nodes regulating female aggression. Connectomic analysis demonstrated that aIPg neurons and pC1d are interconnected and suggest that aIPg neurons may exert part of their effect by gating the flow of visual information to descending neurons. Our work reveals important regulatory components of the neuronal circuitry that underlies female aggressive social interactions and provides tools for their manipulation.

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    10/05/20 | Circuit and behavioral mechanisms of sexual rejection by drosophila females.
    Wang F, Wang K, Forknall N, Parekh R, Dickson BJ
    Current Biology. 2020 Oct 05;30(19):. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2020.07.083

    The mating decisions of Drosophila melanogaster females are primarily revealed through either of two discrete actions: opening of the vaginal plates to allow copulation, or extrusion of the ovipositor to reject the male. Both actions are triggered by the male courtship song, and both are dependent upon the female's mating status. Virgin females are more likely to open their vaginal plates in response to song; mated females are more likely to extrude their ovipositor. Here, we examine the neural cause and behavioral consequence of ovipositor extrusion. We show that the DNp13 descending neurons act as command-type neurons for ovipositor extrusion, and that ovipositor extrusion is an effective deterrent only when performed by females that have previously mated. The DNp13 neurons respond to male song via direct synaptic input from the pC2l auditory neurons. Mating status does not modulate the song responses of DNp13 neurons, but rather how effectively they can engage the motor circuits for ovipositor extrusion. We present evidence that mating status information is mediated by ppk sensory neurons in the uterus, which are activated upon ovulation. Vaginal plate opening and ovipositor extrusion are thus controlled by anatomically and functionally distinct circuits, highlighting the diversity of neural decision-making circuits even in the context of closely related behaviors with shared exteroceptive and interoceptive inputs.

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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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    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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    10/15/19 | The yellow gene influences Drosophila male mating success through sex comb melanization.
    Massey JH, Chung D, Siwanowicz I, Stern DL, Wittkopp PJ
    eLife. 2019 Oct 15;8:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.49388

    males perform a series of courtship behaviors that, when successful, result in copulation with a female. For over a century, mutations in the gene, named for its effects on pigmentation, have been known to reduce male mating success. Prior work has suggested that influences mating behavior through effects on wing extension, song, and/or courtship vigor. Here, we rule out these explanations, as well as effects on the nervous system more generally, and find instead that the effects of on male mating success are mediated by its effects on pigmentation of male-specific leg structures called sex combs. Loss of expression in these modified bristles reduces their melanization, which changes their structure and causes difficulty grasping females prior to copulation. These data illustrate why the mechanical properties of anatomy, not just neural circuitry, must be considered to fully understand the development and evolution of behavior.

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