[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Determining the pattern of activity of individual connections within a neural circuit could provide insights into the computational processes that underlie brain function. Here, we develop new strategies to label active synapses by trans-synaptic fluorescence complementation in Drosophila. First, we demonstrate that a synaptobrevin-GRASP chimera functions as a powerful activity-dependent marker for synapses in vivo. Next, we create cyan and yellow variants, achieving activity-dependent, multi-colour fluorescence reconstitution across synapses (X-RASP). Our system allows for the first time retrospective labelling of synapses (rather than whole neurons) based on their activity, in multiple colours, in the same animal. As individual synapses often act as computational units in the brain, our method will promote the design of experiments that are not possible using existing techniques. Moreover, our strategies are easily adaptable to circuit mapping in any genetic system.
Full-text · Article · Dec 2015 · Nature Communications
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Although the gustatory system provides animals with sensory cues important for food choice and other critical behaviors, little is known about neural circuitry immediately following gustatory sensory neurons (GSNs). Here, we identify and characterize a bilateral pair of gustatory second-order neurons in Drosophila. Previous studies identified GSNs that relay taste information to distinct subregions of the primary gustatory center (PGC) in the gnathal ganglia (GNG). To identify candidate gustatory second-order neurons (G2Ns) we screened ∼5,000 GAL4 driver strains for lines that label neural fibers innervating the PGC. We then combined GRASP (GFP reconstitution across synaptic partners) with presynaptic labeling to visualize potential synaptic contacts between the dendrites of the candidate G2Ns and the axonal terminals of Gr5a-expressing GSNs, which are known to respond to sucrose. Results of the GRASP analysis, followed by a single cell analysis by FLPout recombination, revealed a pair of neurons that contact Gr5a axon terminals in both brain hemispheres, and send axonal arborizations to a distinct region outside the PGC but within the GNG. To characterize the input and output branches, respectively, we expressed fluorescence-tagged acetylcholine receptor subunit (Dα7) and active-zone marker (Brp) in the G2Ns. We found that G2N input sites overlaid GRASP-labeled synaptic contacts to Gr5a neurons, while presynaptic sites were broadly distributed throughout the neurons' arborizations. GRASP analysis and further tests with the Syb-GRASP method suggested that the identified G2Ns receive synaptic inputs from Gr5a-expressing GSNs, but not Gr66a-expressing GSNs, which respond to caffeine. The identified G2Ns relay information from Gr5a-expressing GSNs to distinct regions in the GNG, and are distinct from other, recently identified gustatory projection neurons, which relay information about sugars to a brain region called the antennal mechanosensory and motor center (AMMC). Our findings suggest unexpected complexity for taste information processing in the first relay of the gustatory system.
Full-text · Article · May 2015 · Journal of neurogenetics
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The receptor mechanism for color vision has been extensively studied. In contrast, the circuit(s) that transform(s) photoreceptor signals into color percepts to guide behavior remain(s) poorly characterized. Using intersectional genetics to inactivate identified subsets of neurons, we have uncovered the first-order interneurons that are functionally required for hue discrimination in Drosophila. We developed a novel aversive operant conditioning assay for intensity-independent color discrimination (true color vision) in Drosophila. Single flying flies are magnetically tethered in an arena surrounded by blue and green LEDs (light-emitting diodes). The flies' optomotor response is used to determine the blue-green isoluminant intensity. Flies are then conditioned to discriminate between equiluminant blue or green stimuli. Wild-type flies are successfully trained in this paradigm when conditioned to avoid either blue or green. Functional color entrainment requires the function of the narrow-spectrum photoreceptors R8 and/or R7, and is within a limited range, intensity independent, suggesting that it is mediated by a color vision system. The medulla projection neurons, Tm5a/b/c and Tm20, receive direct inputs from R7 or R8 photoreceptors and indirect input from the broad-spectrum photoreceptors R1-R6 via the lamina neuron L3. Genetically inactivating these four classes of medulla projection neurons abolished color learning. However, inactivation of subsets of these neurons is insufficient to block color learning, suggesting that true color vision is mediated by multiple redundant pathways. We hypothesize that flies represent color along multiple axes at the first synapse in the fly visual system. The apparent redundancy in learned color discrimination sharply contrasts with innate ultraviolet (UV) spectral preference, which is dominated by a single pathway from the amacrine neuron Dm8 to the Tm5c projection neurons.
No preview · Article · Apr 2014 · Journal of neurogenetics
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In the fly's visual motion pathways, two cell types-T4 and T5-are the first known relay neurons to signal small-field direction-selective motion responses . These cells then feed into large tangential cells that signal wide-field motion. Recent studies have identified two types of columnar neurons in the second neuropil, or medulla, that relay input to T4 from L1, the ON-channel neuron in the first neuropil, or lamina, thus providing a candidate substrate for the elementary motion detector (EMD) . Interneurons relaying the OFF channel from L1's partner, L2, to T5 are so far not known, however.
Here we report that multiple types of transmedulla (Tm) neurons provide unexpectedly complex inputs to T5 at their terminals in the third neuropil, or lobula. From the L2 pathway, single-column input comes from Tm1 and Tm2 and multiple-column input from Tm4 cells. Additional input to T5 comes from Tm9, the medulla target of a third lamina interneuron, L3, providing a candidate substrate for L3's combinatorial action with L2 . Most numerous, Tm2 and Tm9's input synapses are spatially segregated on T5's dendritic arbor, providing candidate anatomical substrates for the two arms of a T5 EMD circuit; Tm1 and Tm2 provide a second. Transcript profiling indicates that T5 expresses both nicotinic and muscarinic cholinoceptors, qualifying T5 to receive cholinergic inputs from Tm9 and Tm2, which both express choline acetyltransferase (ChAT).
We hypothesize that T5 computes small-field motion signals by integrating multiple cholinergic Tm inputs using nicotinic and muscarinic cholinoceptors.
Full-text · Article · Apr 2014 · Current biology: CB
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Unlabelled:
Many visual animals have innate preferences for particular wavelengths of light, which can be modified by learning. Drosophila's preference for UV over visible light requires UV-sensing R7 photoreceptors and specific wide-field amacrine neurons called Dm8. Here we identify three types of medulla projection neurons downstream of R7 and Dm8 and show that selectively inactivating one of them (Tm5c) abolishes UV preference. Using a modified GRASP method to probe synaptic connections at the single-cell level, we reveal that each Dm8 neuron forms multiple synaptic contacts with Tm5c in the center of Dm8's dendritic field but sparse connections in the periphery. By single-cell transcript profiling and RNAi-mediated knockdown, we determine that Tm5c uses the kainate receptor Clumsy to receive excitatory glutamate input from Dm8. We conclude that R7s→Dm8→Tm5c form a hard-wired glutamatergic circuit that mediates UV preference by pooling ∼16 R7 signals for transfer to the lobula, a higher visual center.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: How neurons form appropriately sized dendritic fields to encounter their presynaptic partners is poorly understood. The Drosophila medulla is organized in layers and columns and innervated by medulla neuron dendrites and photoreceptor axons. Here, we show that three types of medulla projection (Tm) neurons extend their dendrites in stereotyped directions and to distinct layers within a single column for processing retinotopic information. In contrast, the Dm8 amacrine neurons form a wide dendritic field to receive ∼16 R7 photoreceptor inputs. R7- and R8-derived Activin selectively restricts the dendritic fields of their respective postsynaptic partners, Dm8 and Tm20, to the size appropriate for their functions. Canonical Activin signaling promotes dendritic termination without affecting dendritic routing direction or layer. Tm20 neurons lacking Activin signaling expanded their dendritic fields and aberrantly synapsed with neighboring photoreceptors. We suggest that afferent-derived Activin regulates the dendritic field size of their postsynaptic partners to ensure appropriate synaptic partnership.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Analysis of cis-regulatory enhancers has revealed that they consist of clustered blocks of highly conserved sequences. Although most characterized enhancers reside near their target genes, a growing number of studies have shown that enhancers located over 50 kb from their minimal promoter(s) are required for appropriate gene expression and many of these 'long-range' enhancers are found in genomic regions that are devoid of identified exons. To gain insight into the complexity of Drosophila cis-regulatory sequences within exon-poor regions, we have undertaken an evolutionary analysis of 39 of these regions located throughout the genome. This survey revealed that within these genomic expanses, clusters of conserved sequence blocks (CSBs) are positioned once every 1.1 kb, on average, and that a typical cluster contains multiple (5 to 30 or more) CSBs that have been maintained for at least 190 My of evolutionary divergence. As an initial step toward assessing the cis-regulatory activity of conserved clusters within gene-free genomic expanses, we have tested the in-vivo enhancer activity of 19 consecutive CSB clusters located in the middle of a 115 kb gene-poor region on the 3(rd) chromosome. Our studies revealed that each cluster functions independently as a specific spatial/temporal enhancer. In total, the enhancers possess a diversity of regulatory functions, including dynamically activating expression in defined patterns within subsets of cells in discrete regions of the embryo, larvae and/or adult. We also observed that many of the enhancers are multifunctional-that is, they activate expression during multiple developmental stages. By extending these results to the rest of the Drosophila genome, which contains over 70,000 non-coding CSB clusters, we suggest that most function as enhancers.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Fly and vertebrate nervous systems share many organizational features, such as layers, columns and glomeruli, and utilize similar synaptic components, such as ion channels and receptors. Both also exhibit similar network features. Recent technological advances, especially in electron microscopy, now allow us to determine synaptic circuits and identify pathways cell-by-cell, as part of the fly's connectome. Genetic tools provide the means to identify synaptic components, as well as to record and manipulate neuronal activity, adding function to the connectome. This review discusses technical advances in these emerging areas of functional connectomics, offering prognoses in each and identifying the challenges in bridging structural connectomics to molecular biology and synaptic physiology, thereby determining fundamental mechanisms of neural computation that underlie behavior.
No preview · Article · Oct 2012 · Advances in genetics
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Color and motion information are thought to be channeled through separate neural pathways, but it remains unclear whether and how these pathways interact to improve motion perception. In insects, such as Drosophila, it has long been believed that motion information is fed exclusively by one spectral class of photoreceptor, so-called R1 to R6 cells; whereas R7 and R8 photoreceptors, which exist in multiple spectral classes, subserve color vision. Here, we report that R7 and R8 also contribute to the motion pathway. By using electrophysiological, optical, and behavioral assays, we found that R7/R8 information converge with and shape the motion pathway output, explaining flies' broadly tuned optomotor behavior by its composite responses. Our results demonstrate that inputs from photoreceptors of different spectral sensitivities improve motion discrimination, increasing robustness of perception.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Phylogenetic footprinting has revealed that cis-regulatory enhancers consist of conserved DNA sequence clusters (CSCs). Currently, there is no systematic approach for enhancer discovery and analysis that takes full-advantage of the sequence information within enhancer CSCs.
We have generated a Drosophila genome-wide database of conserved DNA consisting of >100,000 CSCs derived from EvoPrints spanning over 90% of the genome. cis-Decoder database search and alignment algorithms enable the discovery of functionally related enhancers. The program first identifies conserved repeat elements within an input enhancer and then searches the database for CSCs that score highly against the input CSC. Scoring is based on shared repeats as well as uniquely shared matches, and includes measures of the balance of shared elements, a diagnostic that has proven to be useful in predicting cis-regulatory function. To demonstrate the utility of these tools, a temporally-restricted CNS neuroblast enhancer was used to identify other functionally related enhancers and analyze their structural organization.
cis-Decoder reveals that co-regulating enhancers consist of combinations of overlapping shared sequence elements, providing insights into the mode of integration of multiple regulating transcription factors. The database and accompanying algorithms should prove useful in the discovery and analysis of enhancers involved in any developmental process.
Full-text · Article · Jan 2012 · Developmental Dynamics
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Both insect and vertebrate visual circuits are organized into orderly arrays of columnar and layered synaptic units that correspond to the array of photoreceptors in the eye. Recent genetic studies in Drosophila have yielded insights into the molecular and cellular mechanisms that pattern the layers and columns and establish specific connections within the synaptic units. A sequence of inductive events and complex cellular interactions coordinates the assembly of visual circuits. Photoreceptor-derived ligands, such as hedgehog and Jelly-Belly, induce target development and expression of specific adhesion molecules, which in turn serve as guidance cues for photoreceptor axons. Afferents are directed to specific layers by adhesive afferent-target interactions mediated by leucine-rich repeat proteins and cadherins, which are restricted spatially and/or modulated dynamically. Afferents are restricted to their topographically appropriate columns by repulsive interactions between afferents and by autocrine activin signaling. Finally, Dscam-mediated repulsive interactions between target neuron dendrites ensure appropriate combinations of postsynaptic elements at synapses. Essentially, all these Drosophila molecules have vertebrate homologs, some of which are known to carry out analogous functions. Thus, the studies of Drosophila visual circuit development would shed light on neural circuit assembly in general.
Full-text · Article · Dec 2011 · Developmental Neurobiology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Detecting motion is a feature of all advanced visual systems , nowhere more so than in flying animals, like insects [2, 3]. In flies, an influential autocorrelation model for motion detection, the elementary motion detector circuit (EMD; [4, 5]), compares visual signals from neighboring photoreceptors to derive information on motion direction and velocity. This information is fed by two types of interneuron, L1 and L2, in the first optic neuropile, or lamina, to downstream local motion detectors in columns of the second neuropile, the medulla. Despite receiving carefully matched photoreceptor inputs, L1 and L2 drive distinct, separable pathways responding preferentially to moving "on" and "off" edges, respectively [6, 7]. Our serial electron microscopy (EM) identifies two types of transmedulla (Tm) target neurons, Tm1 and Tm2, that receive apparently matched synaptic inputs from L2. Tm2 neurons also receive inputs from two retinotopically posterior neighboring columns via L4, a third type of lamina neuron. Light microscopy reveals that the connections in these L2/L4/Tm2 circuits are highly determinate. Single-cell transcript profiling suggests that nicotinic acetylcholine receptors mediate transmission within the L2/L4/Tm2 circuits, whereas L1 is apparently glutamatergic. We propose that Tm2 integrates sign-conserving inputs from neighboring columns to mediate the detection of front-to-back motion generated during forward motion.
Full-text · Article · Nov 2011 · Current biology: CB
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Here we report the development of a ternary version of the LexA::VP16/LexAop system in which the DNA-binding and trans-activating moieties are independently targeted using distinct promoters to achieve highly restricted, intersectional expression patterns. This Split LexA system can be concatenated with the Gal4/upstream activating sequence system to refine the expression patterns of existing Gal4 lines with minimal genetic manipulations.