ABSTRACT: Aggression is a universal social behavior important for the acquisition of food, mates, territory, and social status. Aggression in Drosophila is context-dependent and can thus be expected to involve inputs from multiple sensory modalities. Here, we use mechanical disruption and genetic approaches in Drosophila melanogaster to identify hearing as an important sensory modality in the context of intermale aggressive behavior. We demonstrate that neuronal silencing and targeted knockdown of hearing genes in the fly's auditory organ elicit abnormal aggression. Further, we show that exposure to courtship or aggression song has opposite effects on aggression. Our data define the importance of hearing in the control of Drosophila intermale aggression and open perspectives to decipher how hearing and other sensory modalities are integrated at the neural circuit level.
Project description:How environmental and physiological signals interact to influence neural circuits underlying developmentally programmed social interactions such as male territorial aggression is poorly understood. We have tested the influence of sensory cues, social context, and sex hormones on progesterone receptor (PR)-expressing neurons in the ventromedial hypothalamus (VMH) that are critical for male territorial aggression. We find that these neurons can drive aggressive displays in solitary males independent of pheromonal input, gonadal hormones, opponents, or social context. By contrast, these neurons cannot elicit aggression in socially housed males that intrude in another male's territory unless their pheromone-sensing is disabled. This modulation of aggression cannot be accounted for by linear integration of environmental and physiological signals. Together, our studies suggest that fundamentally non-linear computations enable social context to exert a dominant influence on developmentally hard-wired hypothalamus-mediated male territorial aggression.
Project description:Natural aggressiveness is commonly observed in all animal species, and is displayed frequently when animals compete for food, territory and mating. Aggression is an innate behaviour, and is influenced by both environmental and genetic factors. However, the genetics of aggression remains largely unclear. In this study, we identify the peacefulness (pfs) gene as a novel player in the control of male-male aggression in Drosophila. Mutations in pfs decreased intermale aggressiveness, but did not affect locomotor activity, olfactory avoidance response and sexual behaviours. pfs encodes for the evolutionarily conserved molybdenum cofactor (MoCo) synthesis 1 protein (Mocs1), which catalyzes the first step in the MoCo biosynthesis pathway. Neuronal-specific knockdown of pfs decreased aggressiveness. By contrast, overexpression of pfs greatly increased aggressiveness. Knocking down Cinnamon (Cin) catalyzing the final step in the MoCo synthesis pathway, caused a pfs-like aggression phenotype. In humans, inhibition of MoCo-dependent enzymes displays anti-aggressive effects. Thus, the control of aggression by Pfs-dependent MoCo pathways may be conserved throughout evolution.
Project description:Metabotropic glutamate receptor subtype 7 (mGluR7) is a member of group III mGluRs, which localize to the presynaptic active zones of the mammalian central nervous system. Although histological, genetic, and electrophysiological studies ensure the importance of mGluR7, its roles in behavior and physiology remain largely unknown. Using a resident-intruder paradigm, we found a severe reduction in intermale aggressive behavior in mGluR7 knockout (KO) mice. We also found alterations in other social behaviors in male mGluR7 KO mice, including sexual behavior toward male intruders. Because olfaction is critical for rodent social behavior, including aggression, we performed an olfaction test, finding that mGluR7 KO mice failed to show interest in the smell of male urine. To clarify the olfactory deficit, we then exposed mice to urine and analyzed c-Fos-immunoreactivity, discovering a remarkable reduction in neural activity in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) of mGluR7 KO mice. Finally, intra-BNST administration of the mGluR7-selective antagonist 6-(4-methoxyphenyl)-5-methyl-3-pyridin-4-ylisoxazolo[4,5-c]pyridin-4(5H)-one (MMPIP) also reproduced the phenotype of mGluR7 KO mice, including reduced aggression and altered social interaction. Thus mGluR7 may work as an 'enhancer of neural activity' in the BNST and is important for intermale aggression. Our findings demonstrate that mGluR7 is essential for social behavior and innate behavior. Our study on mGluR7 in the BNST will shed light on future therapies for emotional disorders in humans.
Project description:Aromatase-expressing neuroendocrine neurons in the vertebrate male brain synthesize estradiol from circulating testosterone. This locally produced estradiol controls neural circuits underlying courtship vocalization, mating, aggression, and territory marking in male mice. How aromatase-expressing neuronal populations control these diverse estrogen-dependent male behaviors is poorly understood, and the function, if any, of aromatase-expressing neurons in females is unclear. Using targeted genetic approaches, we show that aromatase-expressing neurons within the male posterodorsal medial amygdala (MeApd) regulate components of aggression, but not other estrogen-dependent male-typical behaviors. Remarkably, aromatase-expressing MeApd neurons in females are specifically required for components of maternal aggression, which we show is distinct from intermale aggression in pattern and execution. Thus, aromatase-expressing MeApd neurons control distinct forms of aggression in the two sexes. Moreover, our findings indicate that complex social behaviors are separable in a modular manner at the level of genetically identified neuronal populations.
Project description:How animals use sensory information to weigh the risks vs. benefits of behavioral decisions remains poorly understood. Inter-male aggression is triggered when animals perceive both the presence of an appetitive resource, such as food or females, and of competing conspecific males. How such signals are detected and integrated to control the decision to fight is not clear. For instance, it is unclear whether food increases aggression directly, or as a secondary consequence of increased social interactions caused by attraction to food. Here we use the vinegar fly, Drosophila melanogaster, to investigate the manner by which food influences aggression. We show that food promotes aggression in flies, and that it does so independently of any effect on frequency of contact between males, increase in locomotor activity or general enhancement of social interactions. Importantly, the level of aggression depends on the absolute amount of food, rather than on its surface area or concentration. When food resources exceed a certain level, aggression is diminished, suggestive of reduced competition. Finally, we show that detection of sugar via Gr5a+ gustatory receptor neurons (GRNs) is necessary for food-promoted aggression. These data demonstrate that food exerts a specific effect to promote aggression in male flies, and that this effect is mediated, at least in part, by sweet-sensing GRNs.
Project description:Males of most species are more aggressive than females, but the neural mechanisms underlying this dimorphism are not clear. Here, we identify a neuron and a gene that control the higher level of aggression characteristic of Drosophila melanogaster males. Males, but not females, contain a small cluster of FruM(+) neurons that express the neuropeptide tachykinin (Tk). Activation and silencing of these neurons increased and decreased, respectively, intermale aggression without affecting male-female courtship behavior. Mutations in both Tk and a candidate receptor, Takr86C, suppressed the effect of neuronal activation, whereas overexpression of Tk potentiated it. Tk neuron activation overcame reduced aggressiveness caused by eliminating a variety of sensory or contextual cues, suggesting that it promotes aggressive arousal or motivation. Tachykinin/Substance P has been implicated in aggression in mammals, including humans. Thus, the higher aggressiveness of Drosophila males reflects the sexually dimorphic expression of a neuropeptide that controls agonistic behaviors across phylogeny.
Project description:Despite ongoing high energetic demands, brains do not always use glucose and oxygen in a ratio that produces maximal ATP through oxidative phosphorylation. In some cases glucose consumption exceeds oxygen use despite adequate oxygen availability, a phenomenon known as aerobic glycolysis. Although metabolic plasticity seems essential for normal cognition, studying its functional significance has been challenging because few experimental systems link brain metabolic patterns to distinct behavioral states. Our recent transcriptomic analysis established a correlation between aggression and decreased whole-brain oxidative phosphorylation activity in the honey bee (Apis mellifera), suggesting that brain metabolic plasticity may modulate this naturally occurring behavior. Here we demonstrate that the relationship between brain metabolism and aggression is causal, conserved over evolutionary time, cell type-specific, and modulated by the social environment. Pharmacologically treating honey bees to inhibit complexes I or V in the oxidative phosphorylation pathway resulted in increased aggression. In addition, transgenic RNAi lines and genetic manipulation to knock down gene expression in complex I in fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) neurons resulted in increased aggression, but knockdown in glia had no effect. Finally, honey bee colony-level social manipulations that decrease individual aggression attenuated the effects of oxidative phosphorylation inhibition on aggression, demonstrating a specific effect of the social environment on brain function. Because decreased neuronal oxidative phosphorylation is usually associated with brain disease, these findings provide a powerful context for understanding brain metabolic plasticity and naturally occurring behavioral plasticity.
Project description:Aggression between male conspecifics is a complex social behavior that is likely modulated by multiple gene variants. In this study, the BXD recombinant inbred mouse strains (RIS) were used to map quantitative trait loci (QTLs) underlying behaviors associated with intermale aggression. Four hundred and fifty-seven males from 55 strains (including the parentals) were observed at an age of 13 ± 1 week in a resident-intruder test following 10 days of isolation. Attack latency was measured directly within a 10-minute time period and the test was repeated 24 hours later. The variables we analyzed were the proportion of attacking males in a given strain as well as the attack latency (on days 1 and 2, and both days combined). On day 1, 29% of males attacked, and this increased to 37% on day 2. Large strain differences were obtained for all measures of aggression, indicating substantial heritability (intraclass correlations 0.10-0.18). We identified a significant QTL on chromosome (Chr) 1 and suggestive QTLs on mouse Chrs 1 and 12 for both attack and latency variables. The significant Chr 1 locus maps to a gene-sparse region between 82 and 88.5 Mb with the C57BL/6J allele increasing aggression and explaining about 18% of the variance. The most likely candidate gene modulating this trait is Htr2b which encodes the serotonin 2B receptor and has been implicated in aggressive and impulsive behavior in mice, humans and other species.
Project description:The reproductive and defensive behaviors that are initiated in response to specific sensory cues can provide insight into how choices are made between different social behaviors. We manipulated both the activity and sex of a subset of neurons and found significant changes in male social behavior. Results from aggression assays indicate that the neuromodulator octopamine (OCT) is necessary for Drosophila males to coordinate sensory cue information presented by a second male and respond with the appropriate behavior: aggression rather than courtship. In competitive male courtship assays, males with no OCT or with low OCT levels do not adapt to changing sensory cues and court both males and females. We identified a small subset of neurons in the suboesophageal ganglion region of the adult male brain that coexpress OCT and male forms of the neural sex determination factor, Fruitless (Fru(M)). A single Fru(M)-positive OCT neuron sends extensive bilateral arborizations to the suboesophageal ganglion, the lateral accessory lobe, and possibly the posterior antennal lobe, suggesting a mechanism for integrating multiple sensory modalities. Furthermore, eliminating the expression of Fru(M) by transformer expression in OCT/tyramine neurons changes the aggression versus courtship response behavior. These results provide insight into how complex social behaviors are coordinated in the nervous system and suggest a role for neuromodulators in the functioning of male-specific circuitry relating to behavioral choice.
Project description:Aggression is regulated by pheromones in many animal species. However, in no system have aggression pheromones, their cognate receptors and corresponding sensory neurons been identified. Here we show that 11-cis-vaccenyl acetate (cVA), a male-specific volatile pheromone, robustly promotes male-male aggression in the vinegar fly Drosophila melanogaster. The aggression-promoting effect of synthetic cVA requires olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) expressing the receptor Or67d, as well as the receptor itself. Activation of Or67d-expressing OSNs, either by genetic manipulation of their excitability or by exposure to male pheromones in the absence of other classes of OSNs, is sufficient to promote aggression. High densities of male flies can promote aggression by the release of volatile cVA. In turn, cVA-promoted aggression can promote male fly dispersal from a food resource, in a manner dependent on Or67d-expressing OSNs. These data indicate that cVA may mediate negative-feedback control of male population density, through its effect on aggression. Identification of a pheromone-OSN pair controlling aggression in a genetic organism opens the way to unravelling the neurobiology of this evolutionarily conserved behaviour.