Rapid and efficient escape behaviors in response to noxious sensory stimuli are essential for protection and survival. Yet, how noxious stimuli are transformed to coordinated escape behaviors remains poorly understood. In Drosophila larvae, noxious stimuli trigger sequential body bending and corkscrew-like rolling behavior. We identified a population of interneurons in the nerve cord of Drosophila, termed Down-and-Back (DnB) neurons, that are activated by noxious heat, promote nociceptive behavior, and are required for robust escape responses to noxious stimuli. Electron microscopic circuit reconstruction shows that DnBs are targets of nociceptive and mechanosensory neurons, are directly presynaptic to pre-motor circuits, and link indirectly to Goro rolling command-like neurons. DnB activation promotes activity in Goro neurons, and coincident inactivation of Goro neurons prevents the rolling sequence but leaves intact body bending motor responses. Thus, activity from nociceptors to DnB interneurons coordinates modular elements of nociceptive escape behavior.
The ability of presynaptic dopamine terminals to tune neurotransmitter release to meet the demands of neuronal activity is critical to neurotransmission. Although vesicle content has been assumed to be static, in vitro data increasingly suggest that cell activity modulates vesicle content. Here, we use a coordinated genetic, pharmacological, and imaging approach in Drosophila to study the presynaptic machinery responsible for these vesicular processes in vivo. We show that cell depolarization increases synaptic vesicle dopamine content prior to release via vesicular hyperacidification. This depolarization-induced hyperacidification is mediated by the vesicular glutamate transporter (VGLUT). Remarkably, both depolarization-induced dopamine vesicle hyperacidification and its dependence on VGLUT2 are seen in ventral midbrain dopamine neurons in the mouse. Together, these data suggest that in response to depolarization, dopamine vesicles utilize a cascade of vesicular transporters to dynamically increase the vesicular pH gradient, thereby increasing dopamine vesicle content.
Olfactory processing has been intensively studied in Drosophila melanogaster. However, we still know little about the descending neural pathways from the higher order processing centers and how these connect with other neural circuits. Here we describe, in detail, the adult projections patterns that arise from a cluster of 78 neurons, defined by the expression of the Odd-skipped transcription factor. We term these neurons Odd neurons. By using expression of genetically encoded axonal and dendritic markers, we show that a subset of the Odd neurons projects dendrites into the calyx of the mushroom body (MB) and axons into the inferior protocerebrum. We exclude the possibility that the Odd neurons are part of the well-known Kenyon cells whose projections form the MB and conclude that the Odd neurons belong to a previously not described class of extrinsic MB neurons. In addition, three of the Odd neurons project into the lobula plate of the optic lobe, and two of these cells extend axons ipsi- and contralaterally in the brain. Anatomically, these cells do not resemble any previously described lobula plate tangential cells (LPTCs) in Drosophila. We show that the Odd neurons are predominantly cholinergic but also include a small number of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)ergic neurons. Finally, we provide evidence that the Odd neurons are a hemilineage, suggesting they are born from a defined set of neuroblasts. Our anatomical analysis hints at the possibility that subgroups of Odd neurons could be involved in olfactory and visual processing.