Identifying Neuronal Lineages of Drosophila by Sequence Analysis of Axon Tracts

Institute of Neuroinformatics, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.
The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 6.34). 06/2010; 30(22):7538-53. DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0186-10.2010
Source: PubMed


The Drosophila brain is formed by an invariant set of lineages, each of which is derived from a unique neural stem cell (neuroblast) and forms a genetic and structural unit of the brain. The task of reconstructing brain circuitry at the level of individual neurons can be made significantly easier by assigning neurons to their respective lineages. In this article we address the automation of neuron and lineage identification. We focused on the Drosophila brain lineages at the larval stage when they form easily recognizable secondary axon tracts (SATs) that were previously partially characterized. We now generated an annotated digital database containing all lineage tracts reconstructed from five registered wild-type brains, at higher resolution and including some that were previously not characterized. We developed a method for SAT structural comparisons based on a dynamic programming approach akin to nucleotide sequence alignment and a machine learning classifier trained on the annotated database of reference SATs. We quantified the stereotypy of SATs by measuring the residual variability of aligned wild-type SATs. Next, we used our method for the identification of SATs within wild-type larval brains, and found it highly accurate (93-99%). The method proved highly robust for the identification of lineages in mutant brains and in brains that differed in developmental time or labeling. We describe for the first time an algorithm that quantifies neuronal projection stereotypy in the Drosophila brain and use the algorithm for automatic neuron and lineage recognition.

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