Frontiers in neural circuits

Mushroom body miscellanea: transgenic Drosophila strains expressing anatomical and physiological sensor proteins in Kenyon cells.

PMID 24065891


The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster represents a key model organism for analyzing how neuronal circuits regulate behavior. The mushroom body in the central brain is a particularly prominent brain region that has been intensely studied in several insect species and been implicated in a variety of behaviors, e.g., associative learning, locomotor activity, and sleep. Drosophila melanogaster offers the advantage that transgenes can be easily expressed in neuronal subpopulations, e.g., in intrinsic mushroom body neurons (Kenyon cells). A number of transgenes has been described and engineered to visualize the anatomy of neurons, to monitor physiological parameters of neuronal activity, and to manipulate neuronal function artificially. To target the expression of these transgenes selectively to specific neurons several sophisticated bi- or even multipartite transcription systems have been invented. However, the number of transgenes that can be combined in the genome of an individual fly is limited in practice. To facilitate the analysis of the mushroom body we provide a compilation of transgenic fruit flies that express transgenes under direct control of the Kenyon-cell specific promoter, mb247. The transgenes expressed are fluorescence reporters to analyze neuroanatomical aspects of the mushroom body, proteins to restrict ectopic gene expression to mushroom bodies, or fluorescent sensors to monitor physiological parameters of neuronal activity of Kenyon cells. Some of the transgenic animals compiled here have been published already, whereas others are novel and characterized here for the first time. Overall, the collection of transgenic flies expressing sensor and reporter genes in Kenyon cells facilitates combinations with binary transcription systems and might, ultimately, advance the physiological analysis of mushroom body function.