Neural plasticity

Muscarinic ACh Receptors Contribute to Aversive Olfactory Learning in Drosophila.

PMID 26380118


The most studied form of associative learning in Drosophila consists in pairing an odorant, the conditioned stimulus (CS), with an unconditioned stimulus (US). The timely arrival of the CS and US information to a specific Drosophila brain association region, the mushroom bodies (MB), can induce new olfactory memories. Thus, the MB is considered a coincidence detector. It has been shown that olfactory information is conveyed to the MB through cholinergic inputs that activate acetylcholine (ACh) receptors, while the US is encoded by biogenic amine (BA) systems. In recent years, we have advanced our understanding on the specific neural BA pathways and receptors involved in olfactory learning and memory. However, little information exists on the contribution of cholinergic receptors to this process. Here we evaluate for the first time the proposition that, as in mammals, muscarinic ACh receptors (mAChRs) contribute to memory formation in Drosophila. Our results show that pharmacological and genetic blockade of mAChRs in MB disrupts olfactory aversive memory in larvae. This effect is not explained by an alteration in the ability of animals to respond to odorants or to execute motor programs. These results show that mAChRs in MB contribute to generating olfactory memories in Drosophila.