In JoVE (1)

Other Publications (31)

Articles by Chi-Hon Lee in JoVE

 JoVE Neuroscience

Analyzing Dendritic Morphology in Columns and Layers

1Section on Neuronal Connectivity, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health (NIH), 2Mathematical and Statistical Computing Laboratory, Center for Information Technology, National Institutes of Health (NIH), 3Biomedical Imaging Research Services Section, Center for Information Technology, National Institutes of Health (NIH)

JoVE 55410

Other articles by Chi-Hon Lee on PubMed

The Protocadherin Flamingo is Required for Axon Target Selection in the Drosophila Visual System

Nature Neuroscience. Jun, 2003  |  Pubmed ID: 12754514

Photoreceptor neurons (R cells) in the Drosophila visual system elaborate a precise map of visual space in the brain. The eye contains some 750 identical modules called ommatidia, each containing eight photoreceptor cells (R1-R8). Cells R1-R6 synapse in the lamina; R7 and R8 extend through the lamina and terminate in the underlying medulla. In a screen for visual behavior mutants, we identified alleles of flamingo (fmi) that disrupt the precise maps elaborated by these neurons. These mutant R1-R6 neurons select spatially inappropriate targets in the lamina. During target selection, Flamingo protein is dynamically expressed in R1-R6 growth cones. Loss of fmi function in R cells also disrupts the local pattern of synaptic terminals in the medulla, and Flamingo is transiently expressed in R8 axons as they enter the target region. We propose that Flamingo-mediated interactions between R-cell growth cones within the target field regulate target selection.

Drosophila N-cadherin Functions in the First Stage of the Two-stage Layer-selection Process of R7 Photoreceptor Afferents

Development (Cambridge, England). Mar, 2005  |  Pubmed ID: 15673571

Visual information received from the three types of photoreceptor neurons (R1-R6, R7 and R8) in the fly compound eyes converges to the external part of the medulla neuropil (M1-M6 layers) in a layer-specific fashion: R7 and R8 axons terminate at the M6 and M3 layers, respectively, whereas lamina neurons (L1-L5) relay R1-R6 to multiple medulla layers (M1-M5). Here, we show that during development, R7 and R8 neurons establish layer-specific projections in two separate stages: during the first stage, R7 and R8 axons sequentially target to the R7- and R8-temporary layers, respectively; and at the second stage, R7 and R8 growth cones progress synchronously to their destined layers. Using a set of mutations that delete different afferent subsets or alter R7 connectivity, we defined the mechanism of layer selection. We observed that R8, R7 and L1-L5 afferents target to their temporary layers independently, suggesting that afferent-target, but not afferent-afferent, interactions dictate the targeting specificity. N-cadherin is required in the first stage for R7 growth cones to reach and remain in the R7-temporary layer. The Ncad gene contains three pairs of alternatively spliced exons and encodes 12 isoforms. However, expressing a single Ncad isoform in Ncad mutant R7s is sufficient to rescue mistargeting phenotypes. Furthermore, Ncad isoforms mediate promiscuous heterophilic interactions in an in vitro cell-aggregation assay. We propose that Ncad isoforms do not form an adhesion code; rather, they provide permissive adhesion between R7 growth cones and their temporary targets.

Mouse Disabled 1 Regulates the Nuclear Position of Neurons in a Drosophila Eye Model

Molecular and Cellular Biology. Feb, 2006  |  Pubmed ID: 16449660

Nucleokinesis has recently been suggested as a critical regulator of neuronal migration. Here we show that Disabled 1 (Dab1), which is required for neuronal positioning in mammals, regulates the nuclear position of postmitotic neurons in a phosphorylation-site dependent manner. Dab1 expression in the Drosophila visual system partially rescues nuclear position defects caused by a mutation in the Dynactin subunit Glued. Furthermore, we observed that a loss-of-function allele of amyloid precursor protein (APP)-like, a kinesin cargo receptor, enhanced the severity of a Dab1 overexpression phenotype characterized by misplaced nuclei in the adult retina. In mammalian neurons, overexpression of APP reduced the ability of Reelin to induce Dab1 tyrosine phosphorylation, suggesting an antagonistic relationship between APP family members and Dab1 function. This is the first evidence that signaling which regulates Dab1 tyrosine phosphorylation determines nuclear positioning through Dab1-mediated influences on microtubule motor proteins in a subset of neurons.

The Variable Transmembrane Domain of Drosophila N-cadherin Regulates Adhesive Activity

Molecular and Cellular Biology. Sep, 2006  |  Pubmed ID: 16914742

Drosophila N-cadherin (CadN) is an evolutionarily conserved classic cadherin which has a large, complex extracellular domain and a catenin-binding cytoplasmic domain. The CadN locus contains three modules of alternative exons (7a/b, 13a/b, and 18a/b) and undergoes alternative splicing to generate multiple isoforms. Using quantitative transcript analyses and green fluorescent protein-based cell sorting, we found that during development CadN alternative splicing is regulated in a temporal but not cell-type-specific fashion. In particular, exon 18b is predominantly expressed during early developmental stages, while exon 18a is prevalent at the late developmental and adult stages. All CadN isoforms share the same molecular architecture but have different sequences in their extracellular and transmembrane domains, suggesting functional diversity. In vitro quantitative cell aggregation assays revealed that all CadN isoforms mediate homophilic interactions, but the isoforms encoded by exon 18b have a higher adhesive activity than those by its alternative, 18a. Domain-swapping experiments further revealed that the different sequences in the transmembrane domains of isoforms are responsible for their differential adhesive activities. CadN alternative splicing might provide a novel mechanism to fine-tune its adhesive activity at different developmental stages or to restrict the use of high-affinity 18b-type isoforms at the adult stage.

Visual Circuit Development in Drosophila

Current Opinion in Neurobiology. Feb, 2007  |  Pubmed ID: 17204415

Fly visual circuits are organized into lattice-like arrays and layers. Recent genetic studies have provided insights into how these reiterated structures are assembled through stepwise processes and how precise connections are established during development. Afferent-derived morphogens, such as Hedgehog, play a key role in organizing the overall structure by inducing and recruiting target neurons and glia. In turn, the target-derived ligand DWnt4 guides Frizzled2-expressing photoreceptor afferents to their proper destination. Photoreceptor afferents select specific synaptic targets by forming adhesive interactions and regulating actin cytoskeleton in growth cones. Target specificity is probably achieved by restricting the expression of adhesive molecules, such as Capricious, to appropriate presynaptic and postsynaptic partners, and by differentially regulating the function of broadly expressed adhesive molecules such as N-cadherin.

Adhesive but Not Signaling Activity of Drosophila N-cadherin is Essential for Target Selection of Photoreceptor Afferents

Developmental Biology. Apr, 2007  |  Pubmed ID: 17320070

Drosophila N-cadherin (CadN) is an evolutionarily conserved, atypical classical cadherin, which has a large complex extracellular domain and a catenin-binding cytoplasmic domain. We have previously shown that CadN regulates target selection of R7 photoreceptor axons. To determine the functional domains of CadN, we conducted a structure-function analysis focusing on its in vitro adhesive activity and in vivo function in R7 growth cones. We found that the cytoplasmic domain of CadN is largely dispensable for the targeting of R7 growth cones, and it is not essential for mediating homophilic interaction in cultured cells. Instead, the cytoplasmic domain of CadN is required for maintaining proper growth cone morphology. Domain swapping with the extracellular domain of CadN2, a related but non-adhesive cadherin, revealed that the CadN extracellular domain is required for both adhesive activity and R7 targeting. Using a target-mosaic system, we generated CadN mutant clones in the optic lobe and examined the target-selection of genetically wild-type R7 growth cones to CadN mutant target neurons. We found that CadN, but neither LAR nor Liprin-alpha, is required in the medulla neurons for R7 growth cones to select the correct medulla layer. Together, these data suggest that CadN mediates homophilic adhesive interactions between R7 growth cones and medulla neurons to regulate layer-specific target selection.

Dissection of the Peripheral Motion Channel in the Visual System of Drosophila Melanogaster

Neuron. Oct, 2007  |  Pubmed ID: 17920022

In the eye, visual information is segregated into modalities such as color and motion, these being transferred to the central brain through separate channels. Here, we genetically dissect the achromatic motion channel in the fly Drosophila melanogaster at the level of the first relay station in the brain, the lamina, where it is split into four parallel pathways (L1-L3, amc/T1). The functional relevance of this divergence is little understood. We now show that the two most prominent pathways, L1 and L2, together are necessary and largely sufficient for motion-dependent behavior. At high pattern contrast, the two pathways are redundant. At intermediate contrast, they mediate motion stimuli of opposite polarity, L2 front-to-back, L1 back-to-front motion. At low contrast, L1 and L2 depend upon each other for motion processing. Of the two minor pathways, amc/T1 specifically enhances the L1 pathway at intermediate contrast. L3 appears not to contribute to motion but to orientation behavior.

Tiling of R7 Axons in the Drosophila Visual System is Mediated Both by Transduction of an Activin Signal to the Nucleus and by Mutual Repulsion

Neuron. Dec, 2007  |  Pubmed ID: 18054857

The organization of neuronal wiring into layers and columns is a common feature of both vertebrate and invertebrate brains. In the Drosophila visual system, each R7 photoreceptor axon projects within a single column to a specific layer of the optic lobe. We refer to the restriction of terminals to single columns as tiling. In a genetic screen based on an R7-dependent behavior, we identified the Activin receptor Baboon and the nuclear import adaptor Importin-alpha3 as being required to prevent R7 axon terminals from overlapping with the terminals of R7s in neighboring columns. This tiling function requires the Baboon ligand, dActivin, the transcription factor, dSmad2, and retrograde transport from the growth cone to the R7 nucleus. We propose that dActivin is an autocrine signal that restricts R7 growth cone motility, and we demonstrate that it acts in parallel with a paracrine signal that mediates repulsion between R7 terminals.

A Presynaptic Gain Control Mechanism Fine-tunes Olfactory Behavior

Neuron. Jul, 2008  |  Pubmed ID: 18667158

Early sensory processing can play a critical role in sensing environmental cues. We have investigated the physiological and behavioral function of gain control at the first synapse of olfactory processing in Drosophila. Olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs) express the GABA(B) receptor (GABA(B)R), and its expression expands the dynamic range of ORN synaptic transmission that is preserved in projection neuron responses. Strikingly, each ORN channel has a unique baseline level of GABA(B)R expression. ORNs that sense the aversive odorant CO(2) do not express GABA(B)Rs and do not have significant presynaptic inhibition. In contrast, pheromone-sensing ORNs express a high level of GABA(B)Rs and exhibit strong presynaptic inhibition. Furthermore, pheromone-dependent mate localization is impaired in flies that lack GABA(B)Rs in specific ORNs. These findings indicate that different olfactory receptor channels employ heterogeneous presynaptic gain control as a mechanism to allow an animal's innate behavioral responses to match its ecological needs.

The Neural Substrate of Spectral Preference in Drosophila

Neuron. Oct, 2008  |  Pubmed ID: 18957224

Drosophila vision is mediated by inputs from three types of photoreceptor neurons; R1-R6 mediate achromatic motion detection, while R7 and R8 constitute two chromatic channels. Neural circuits for processing chromatic information are not known. Here, we identified the first-order interneurons downstream of the chromatic channels. Serial EM revealed that small-field projection neurons Tm5 and Tm9 receive direct synaptic input from R7 and R8, respectively, and indirect input from R1-R6, qualifying them to function as color-opponent neurons. Wide-field Dm8 amacrine neurons receive input from 13-16 UV-sensing R7s and provide output to projection neurons. Using a combinatorial expression system to manipulate activity in different neuron subtypes, we determined that Dm8 neurons are necessary and sufficient for flies to exhibit phototaxis toward ultraviolet instead of green light. We propose that Dm8 sacrifices spatial resolution for sensitivity by relaying signals from multiple R7s to projection neurons, which then provide output to higher visual centers.

From Form to Function: the Ways to Know a Neuron

Journal of Neurogenetics. 2009  |  Pubmed ID: 19132600

The shape of a neuron, its morphological signature, dictates the neuron's function by establishing its synaptic partnerships. Here, we review various anatomical methods used to reveal neuron shape and the contributions these have made to our current understanding of neural function in the Drosophila brain, especially the optic lobe. These methods, including Golgi impregnation, genetic reporters, and electron microscopy (EM), necessarily incorporate biases of various sorts that are easy to overlook, but that filter the morphological signatures we see. Nonetheless, the application of these methods to the optic lobe has led to reassuringly congruent findings on the number and shapes of neurons and their connection patterns, indicating that morphological classes are actually genetic classes. Genetic methods using, especially, GAL4 drivers and associated reporters have largely superceded classical Golgi methods for cellular analyses and, moreover, allow the manipulation of neuronal activity, thus enabling us to establish a bridge between morphological studies and functional ones. While serial-EM reconstruction remains the only reliable, albeit labor-intensive, method to determine actual synaptic connections, genetic approaches in combination with EM or high-resolution light microscopic techniques are promising methods for the rapid determination of synaptic circuit function.

Conserved Alternative Splicing and Expression Patterns of Arthropod N-cadherin

PLoS Genetics. Apr, 2009  |  Pubmed ID: 19343204

Metazoan development requires complex mechanisms to generate cells with diverse function. Alternative splicing of pre-mRNA not only expands proteomic diversity but also provides a means to regulate tissue-specific molecular expression. The N-Cadherin gene in Drosophila contains three pairs of mutually-exclusive alternatively-spliced exons (MEs). However, no significant differences among the resulting protein isoforms have been successfully demonstrated in vivo. Furthermore, while the N-Cadherin gene products exhibit a complex spatiotemporal expression pattern within embryos, its underlying mechanisms and significance remain unknown. Here, we present results that suggest a critical role for alternative splicing in producing a crucial and reproducible complexity in the expression pattern of arthropod N-Cadherin. We demonstrate that the arthropod N-Cadherin gene has maintained the three sets of MEs for over 400 million years using in silico and in vivo approaches. Expression of isoforms derived from these MEs receives precise spatiotemporal control critical during development. Both Drosophila and Tribolium use ME-13a and ME-13b in "neural" and "mesodermal" splice variants, respectively. As proteins, either ME-13a- or ME-13b-containing isoform can cell-autonomously rescue the embryonic lethality caused by genetic loss of N-Cadherin. Ectopic muscle expression of either isoform beyond the time it normally ceases leads to paralysis and lethality. Together, our results offer an example of well-conserved alternative splicing increasing cellular diversity in metazoans.

Neuroscience: the Split View of Motion

Nature. Nov, 2010  |  Pubmed ID: 21068820

Focusing Transgene Expression in Drosophila by Coupling Gal4 with a Novel Split-LexA Expression System

Genetics. May, 2011  |  Pubmed ID: 21368278

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.

Visual Circuit Assembly in Drosophila

Developmental Neurobiology. Dec, 2011  |  Pubmed ID: 21538922

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.

Cholinergic Circuits Integrate Neighboring Visual Signals in a Drosophila Motion Detection Pathway

Current Biology : CB. Dec, 2011  |  Pubmed ID: 22137471

Detecting motion is a feature of all advanced visual systems [1], 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.

Use of a Drosophila Genome-wide Conserved Sequence Database to Identify Functionally Related Cis-regulatory Enhancers

Developmental Dynamics : an Official Publication of the American Association of Anatomists. Jan, 2012  |  Pubmed ID: 22174086

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.

Multiple Spectral Inputs Improve Motion Discrimination in the Drosophila Visual System

Science (New York, N.Y.). May, 2012  |  Pubmed ID: 22605779

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.

The Genetic Analysis of Functional Connectomics in Drosophila

Advances in Genetics. 2012  |  Pubmed ID: 23084874

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.

Cis-regulatory Complexity Within a Large Non-coding Region in the Drosophila Genome

PloS One. 2013  |  Pubmed ID: 23613719

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.

Photoreceptor-derived Activin Promotes Dendritic Termination and Restricts the Receptive Fields of First-order Interneurons in Drosophila

Neuron. Feb, 2014  |  Pubmed ID: 24462039

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.

A Hard-wired Glutamatergic Circuit Pools and Relays UV Signals to Mediate Spectral Preference in Drosophila

Neuron. Feb, 2014  |  Pubmed ID: 24507194

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.

Multiple Redundant Medulla Projection Neurons Mediate Color Vision in Drosophila

Journal of Neurogenetics. Sep-Dec, 2014  |  Pubmed ID: 24766346

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.

Candidate Neural Substrates for Off-edge Motion Detection in Drosophila

Current Biology : CB. May, 2014  |  Pubmed ID: 24768048

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 [1]. 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) [2]. Interneurons relaying the OFF channel from L1's partner, L2, to T5 are so far not known, however.

A Gustatory Second-order Neuron That Connects Sucrose-sensitive Primary Neurons and a Distinct Region of the Gnathal Ganglion in the Drosophila Brain

Journal of Neurogenetics. 2015  |  Pubmed ID: 26004543

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 (G2Ns) 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 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 FLP-out 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.

Dynamic Labelling of Neural Connections in Multiple Colours by Trans-synaptic Fluorescence Complementation

Nature Communications. Dec, 2015  |  Pubmed ID: 26635273

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.

Mapping Chromatic Pathways in the Drosophila Visual System

The Journal of Comparative Neurology. Feb, 2016  |  Pubmed ID: 26179639

In Drosophila, color vision and wavelength-selective behaviors are mediated by the compound eye's narrow-spectrum photoreceptors R7 and R8 and their downstream medulla projection (Tm) neurons Tm5a, Tm5b, Tm5c, and Tm20 in the second optic neuropil or medulla. These chromatic Tm neurons project axons to a deeper optic neuropil, the lobula, which in insects has been implicated in processing and relaying color information to the central brain. The synaptic targets of the chromatic Tm neurons in the lobula are not known, however. Using a modified GFP reconstitution across synaptic partners (GRASP) method to probe connections between the chromatic Tm neurons and 28 known and novel types of lobula neurons, we identify anatomically the visual projection neurons LT11 and LC14 and the lobula intrinsic neurons Li3 and Li4 as synaptic targets of the chromatic Tm neurons. Single-cell GRASP analyses reveal that Li4 receives synaptic contacts from over 90% of all four types of chromatic Tm neurons, whereas LT11 is postsynaptic to the chromatic Tm neurons, with only modest selectivity and at a lower frequency and density. To visualize synaptic contacts at the ultrastructural level, we develop and apply a "two-tag" double-labeling method to label LT11's dendrites and the mitochondria in Tm5c's presynaptic terminals. Serial electron microscopic reconstruction confirms that LT11 receives direct contacts from Tm5c. This method would be generally applicable to map the connections of large complex neurons in Drosophila and other animals.

Birth Order Dependent Growth Cone Segregation Determines Synaptic Layer Identity in the Drosophila Visual System

ELife. Mar, 2016  |  Pubmed ID: 26987017

The precise recognition of appropriate synaptic partner neurons is a critical step during neural circuit assembly. However, little is known about the developmental context in which recognition specificity is important to establish synaptic contacts. We show that in the Drosophila visual system, sequential segregation of photoreceptor afferents, reflecting their birth order, lead to differential positioning of their growth cones in the early target region. By combining loss- and gain-of-function analyses we demonstrate that relative differences in the expression of the transcription factor Sequoia regulate R cell growth cone segregation. This initial growth cone positioning is consolidated via cell-adhesion molecule Capricious in R8 axons. Further, we show that the initial growth cone positioning determines synaptic layer selection through proximity-based axon-target interactions. Taken together, we demonstrate that birth order dependent pre-patterning of afferent growth cones is an essential pre-requisite for the identification of synaptic partner neurons during visual map formation in Drosophila.

Neurogenetics of Connectomes: from Fly to Fish

Journal of Neurogenetics. Jun, 2016  |  Pubmed ID: 27309474

Wiring Dendrites in Layers and Columns

Journal of Neurogenetics. Jun, 2016  |  Pubmed ID: 27315108

The most striking structure in the nervous system is the complex yet stereotyped morphology of the neuronal dendritic tree. Dendritic morphologies and the connections they make govern information flow and integration in the brain. The fundamental mechanisms that regulate dendritic outgrowth and branching are subjects of extensive study. In this review, we summarize recent advances in the molecular and cellular mechanisms for routing dendrites in layers and columns, prevalent organizational structures in the brain. We highlight how dendritic patterning influences the formation of synaptic circuits.

Novel Functional Properties of Drosophila CNS Glutamate Receptors

Neuron. Dec, 2016  |  Pubmed ID: 27889096

Phylogenetic analysis reveals AMPA, kainate, and NMDA receptor families in insect genomes, suggesting conserved functional properties corresponding to their vertebrate counterparts. However, heterologous expression of the Drosophila kainate receptor DKaiR1D and the AMPA receptor DGluR1A revealed novel ligand selectivity at odds with the classification used for vertebrate glutamate receptor ion channels (iGluRs). DKaiR1D forms a rapidly activating and desensitizing receptor that is inhibited by both NMDA and the NMDA receptor antagonist AP5; crystallization of the KaiR1D ligand-binding domain reveals that these ligands stabilize open cleft conformations, explaining their action as antagonists. Surprisingly, the AMPA receptor DGluR1A shows weak activation by its namesake agonist AMPA and also by quisqualate. Crystallization of the DGluR1A ligand-binding domain reveals amino acid exchanges that interfere with binding of these ligands. The unexpected ligand-binding profiles of insect iGluRs allows classical tools to be used in novel approaches for the study of synaptic regulation. VIDEO ABSTRACT.

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