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Mechanisms of plasticity in simply taxis behaviors in Drosophila
AuthorRentinck, Beuster and Brembs
Author email bjoern©
Author website
DescriptionLike the proverbial moth drawn to the candle flame, the fruit fly Drosophila also stereotypically approaches light sources. This positive phototaxis is the archetypal example of hard-wired input-output behaviors. However, it has long been known that defects to the wings of the fly, either by mutation or by damage, reduce not only phototaxis but also geotaxis in walking Drosophila. If these behaviors are so hard-wired, how can manipulating an unrelated organ affect them? Using the classic countercurrent photo-/geotaxis essay developed by Seymour Benzer, we tested the hypothesis that instead of taxis being a simple matter of stimulus and response, there may be a central decision-making stage which is influenced by the wing manipulations. We discovered that the phenomenon of reduced taxis in flies with manipulated wings is very robust. The reduction in photo-/geotaxis can be observed not only in several different strains of wild type flies, but also in flies with white eyes, in strains which fail in multiple learning paradigms and in flies with impaired mushroom-body function. However, flies with wings deformed by mutation (and thus unable to fly) did not reduce their taxis any further. This results suggests that the ability to fly and not injury or pain determines the reduction in photo-/geotaxis. Experiments without guiding stimuli (walking horizontally in the dark) showed that the decrease is due to central processes and exclusively observed in response to the eliciting stimuli. Consistent with our hypothesis, our results suggest that there are dedicated circuits in the nervous system of the fly which monitor the fly’s ability to fly and modulate its walking activity depending on this status.
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