A single pair of interneurons commands the Drosophila feeding motor program.
ABSTRACT: Many feeding behaviours are the result of stereotyped, organized sequences of motor patterns. These patterns have been the subject of neuroethological studies, such as electrophysiological characterization of neurons governing prey capture in toads. However, technical limitations have prevented detailed study of the functional role of these neurons, a common problem for vertebrate organisms. Complexities involved in studies of whole-animal behaviour can be resolved in Drosophila, in which remote activation of brain cells by genetic means enables us to examine the nervous system in freely moving animals to identify neurons that govern a specific behaviour, and then to repeatedly target and manipulate these neurons to characterize their function. Here we show neurons that generate the feeding motor program in Drosophila. We carried out an unbiased screen using remote neuronal activation and identified a critical pair of brain cells that induces the entire feeding sequence when activated. These 'feeding neurons' (here abbreviated to Fdg neurons for brevity) are also essential for normal feeding as their suppression or ablation eliminates sugar-induced feeding behaviour. Activation of a single Fdg neuron induces asymmetric feeding behaviour and ablation of a single Fdg neuron distorts the sugar-induced feeding behaviour to become asymmetric, indicating the direct role of these neurons in shaping motor-program execution. Furthermore, recording neuronal activity and calcium imaging simultaneously during feeding behaviour reveals that the Fdg neurons respond to food presentation, but only in starved flies. Our results demonstrate that Fdg neurons operate firmly within the sensorimotor watershed, downstream of sensory and metabolic cues and at the top of the feeding motor hierarchy, to execute the decision to feed.
Project description:The physical act of eating or feeding involves the coordinated action of several organs like eyes and jaws, and associated neural networks. Moreover, the activity of the neural networks controlling jaw movements (branchiomotor circuits) is regulated by the visual, olfactory, gustatory and hypothalamic systems, which are largely well characterized at the physiological level. By contrast, the behavioral output of the branchiomotor circuits and the functional consequences of disruption of these circuits by abnormal neural development are poorly understood. To begin to address these questions, we sought to evaluate the feeding ability of zebrafish larvae, a direct output of the branchiomotor circuits, and developed a qualitative assay for measuring food intake in zebrafish larvae at 7?days post-fertilization. We validated the assay by examining the effects of ablating the branchiomotor neurons. Metronidazole-mediated ablation of nitroreductase-expressing branchiomotor neurons resulted in a predictable reduction in food intake without significantly affecting swimming ability, indicating that the assay is robust. Laser-mediated ablation of trigeminal motor neurons resulted in a significant decrease in food intake, indicating that the assay is sensitive. Importantly, in larvae of a genetic mutant with severe loss of branchiomotor neurons, food intake was abolished. These studies establish a foundation for dissecting the neural circuits driving a motor behavior essential for survival.
Project description:The visual system plays a major role in food/prey recognition in diurnal animals, and food intake is regulated by the hypothalamus. However, whether and how visual information about prey is conveyed to the hypothalamic feeding centre is largely unknown. Here we perform real-time imaging of neuronal activity in freely behaving or constrained zebrafish larvae and demonstrate that prey or prey-like visual stimuli activate the hypothalamic feeding centre. Furthermore, we identify prey detector neurons in the pretectal area that project to the hypothalamic feeding centre. Ablation of the pretectum completely abolishes prey capture behaviour and neurotoxin expression in the hypothalamic area also reduces feeding. Taken together, these results suggest that the pretecto-hypothalamic pathway plays a crucial role in conveying visual information to the feeding centre. Thus, this pathway possibly converts visual food detection into feeding motivation in zebrafish.
Project description:When facing a sudden danger or aversive condition while engaged in on-going forward motion, animals transiently slow down and make a turn to escape. The neural mechanisms underlying stimulation-induced deceleration in avoidance behavior are largely unknown. Here, we report that in Drosophila larvae, light-induced deceleration was commanded by a continuous neural pathway that included prothoracicotropic hormone neurons, eclosion hormone neurons, and tyrosine decarboxylase 2 motor neurons (the PET pathway). Inhibiting neurons in the PET pathway led to defects in light-avoidance due to insufficient deceleration and head casting. On the other hand, activation of PET pathway neurons specifically caused immediate deceleration in larval locomotion. Our findings reveal a neural substrate for the emergent deceleration response and provide a new understanding of the relationship between behavioral modules in animal avoidance responses.
Project description:Neurons in the arcuate nucleus that produce AgRP, NPY, and GABA (AgRP neurons) promote feeding. Ablation of AgRP neurons in adult mice results in Fos activation in postsynaptic neurons and starvation. Loss of GABA is implicated in starvation because chronic subcutaneous delivery of bretazenil (a GABA(A) receptor partial agonist) suppresses Fos activation and maintains feeding during ablation of AgRP neurons. Moreover, under these conditions, direct delivery of bretazenil into the parabrachial nucleus (PBN), a direct target of AgRP neurons that also relays gustatory and visceral sensory information, is sufficient to maintain feeding. Conversely, inactivation of GABA biosynthesis in the ARC or blockade of GABA(A) receptors in the PBN of mice promote anorexia. We suggest that activation of the PBN by AgRP neuron ablation or gastrointestinal malaise inhibits feeding. Chronic delivery of bretazenil during loss of AgRP neurons provides time to establish compensatory mechanisms that eventually allow mice to eat.
Project description:Primate motor cortex projects to spinal interneurons and motoneurons, suggesting that motor cortex activity may be dominated by muscle-like commands. Observations during reaching lend support to this view, but evidence remains ambiguous and much debated. To provide a different perspective, we employed a novel behavioral paradigm that facilitates comparison between time-evolving neural and muscle activity. We found that single motor cortex neurons displayed many muscle-like properties, but the structure of population activity was not muscle-like. Unlike muscle activity, neural activity was structured to avoid "tangling": moments where similar activity patterns led to dissimilar future patterns. Avoidance of tangling was present across tasks and species. Network models revealed a potential reason for this consistent feature: low tangling confers noise robustness. Finally, we were able to predict motor cortex activity from muscle activity by leveraging the hypothesis that muscle-like commands are embedded in additional structure that yields low tangling.
Project description:The precision of skilled forelimb movement has long been presumed to rely on rapid feedback corrections triggered by internally directed copies of outgoing motor commands, but the functional relevance of inferred internal copy circuits has remained unclear. One class of spinal interneurons implicated in the control of mammalian forelimb movement, cervical propriospinal neurons (PNs), has the potential to convey an internal copy of premotor signals through dual innervation of forelimb-innervating motor neurons and precerebellar neurons of the lateral reticular nucleus. Here we examine whether the PN internal copy pathway functions in the control of goal-directed reaching. In mice, PNs include a genetically accessible subpopulation of cervical V2a interneurons, and their targeted ablation perturbs reaching while leaving intact other elements of forelimb movement. Moreover, optogenetic activation of the PN internal copy branch recruits a rapid cerebellar feedback loop that modulates forelimb motor neuron activity and severely disrupts reaching kinematics. Our findings implicate V2a PNs as the focus of an internal copy pathway assigned to the rapid updating of motor output during reaching behaviour.
Project description:During olfactory appetitive learning, animals associate an odor, or conditioned stimulus (CS), with an unconditioned stimulus (US), often a sugar reward. This association induces feeding behavior, a conditioned response (CR), upon subsequent exposure to the CS. In this study, we developed a model of this behavior in isolated Drosophila brains. Artificial activation of neurons expressing the Gr5a sugar-responsive gustatory receptor (Gr5a GRNs) induces feeding behavior in starved flies. Consistent with this, we find that in dissected brains, activation of Gr5a GRNs induces Ca2+ transients in motor neurons, MN11?+?12, required for ingestion. Significantly, activation of Gr5a GRNs can substitute for presentation of sugar rewards during olfactory appetitive learning. Similarly, in dissected brains, coincident stimulation of Gr5a GRNs and the antennal lobe (AL), which processes olfactory information, results in increased Ca2+ influx into MN11?+?12 cells upon subsequent AL stimulation. Importantly, olfactory appetitive associations are not formed in satiated flies. Likewise, AL-evoked Ca2+ transients in MN11?+?12 are not produced in ex vivo brains from satiated flies. Our results suggest that a starved/satiated state is maintained in dissected brains, and that this ex vivo system will be useful for identification of neural networks involved in olfactory appetitive learning.
Project description:The brain has an essential role in maintaining a balance between energy intake and expenditure of the body. Deciphering the processes underlying the decision-making for timely feeding of appropriate amounts may improve our understanding of physiological and psychological disorders related to feeding control. Here, we identify a group of appetite-enhancing neurons in a behavioural screen for flies with increased appetite. Manipulating the activity of these neurons, which we name Taotie neurons, induces bidirectional changes in feeding motivation. Long-term stimulation of Taotie neurons results in flies with highly obese phenotypes. Furthermore, we show that the in vivo activity of Taotie neurons in the neuroendocrine region reflects the hunger/satiety states of un-manipulated animals, and that appetitive-enhancing Taotie neurons control the secretion of insulin, a known regulator of feeding behaviour. Thus, our study reveals a new set of neurons regulating feeding behaviour in the high brain regions that represents physiological hunger states and control feeding behaviour in Drosophila.
Project description:Motor systems can be functionally organized into effector organs (muscles and glands), the motor neurons, central pattern generators (CPG) and higher control centers of the brain. Using genetic and electrophysiological methods, we have begun to deconstruct the motor system driving Drosophila larval feeding behavior into its component parts. In this paper, we identify distinct clusters of motor neurons that execute head tilting, mouth hook movements, and pharyngeal pumping during larval feeding. This basic anatomical scaffold enabled the use of calcium-imaging to monitor the neural activity of motor neurons within the central nervous system (CNS) that drive food intake. Simultaneous nerve- and muscle-recordings demonstrate that the motor neurons innervate the cibarial dilator musculature (CDM) ipsi- and contra-laterally. By classical lesion experiments we localize a set of CPGs generating the neuronal pattern underlying feeding movements to the subesophageal zone (SEZ). Lesioning of higher brain centers decelerated all feeding-related motor patterns, whereas lesioning of ventral nerve cord (VNC) only affected the motor rhythm underlying pharyngeal pumping. These findings provide a basis for progressing upstream of the motor neurons to identify higher regulatory components of the feeding motor system.
Project description:The high vector competence of mosquitoes is intrinsically linked to their reproductive strategy because females need a vertebrate blood meal to develop large batches of eggs. However, the molecular mechanisms and pathways regulating mosquito host-seeking behaviour are largely unknown. Here, we test whether host-seeking behaviour may be linked to the female's energy reserves, with low energy levels triggering the search for a nutrient-rich blood meal. Our results demonstrate that sugar feeding delays host-seeking behaviour in the invasive tiger mosquito Aedes albopictus, but the levels of energy reserves do not correlate with changes in host-seeking behaviour. Using tissue-specific gene expression analyses, we show for the first time, to our knowledge, that sugar feeding alone induces a transient up-regulation of several vitellogenesis-related genes in the female fat body, resembling the transcriptional response after a blood meal. Specifically, high expression levels of a vitellogenin gene (Vg-2) correlated with the lowest host-seeking activity of sugar-fed females. Knocking down the Vg-2 gene via RNA interference (RNAi) restored host-seeking behaviour in these females, firmly establishing that Vg-2 gene expression has a pivotal role in regulating host-seeking behaviour in young Ae. albopictus females. The identification of a molecular mechanism regulating host-seeking behaviour in mosquitoes could pave the way for novel vector control strategies aiming to reduce the biting activity of mosquitoes. From an evolutionary perspective, this is the first demonstration of vitellogenin genes controlling feeding-related behaviours in nonsocial insects, while vitellogenins are known to regulate caste-specific foraging and brood-care behaviours in eusocial insects. Hence, this work confirms the key role of vitellogenin in controlling feeding-related behaviours in distantly related insect orders, suggesting that this function could be more ubiquitous than previously thought.