Silencing synaptic communication between random interneurons during Drosophila larval locomotion.
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Genetic manipulation of individual neurons provides a powerful approach toward understanding their contribution to stereotypic behaviors. We describe and evaluate a method for identifying candidate interneurons and associated neuropile compartments that mediate Drosophila larval locomotion. We created Drosophila larvae that express green fluorescent protein (GFP) and a shibire(ts1) (shi(ts1)) transgene (a temperature-sensitive neuronal silencer) in small numbers of randomly selected cholinergic neurons. These larvae were screened for aberrant behavior at an elevated temperature (31-32°C). Among larvae with abnormal locomotion or sensory-motor responses, some had very small numbers of GFP-labeled temperature-sensitive interneurons. Labeled ascending interneurons projecting from the abdominal ganglia to specific brain neuropile compartments emerged as candidates for mediation of larval locomotion. Random targeting of small sets of neurons for functional evaluation, together with anatomical mapping of their processes, provides a tool for identifying the regions of the central nervous system that are required for normal locomotion. We discuss the limitations and advantages of this approach to discovery of interneurons that regulate motor behavior.
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