Behavior Responses to Chemical and Optogenetic Stimuli in Drosophila Larvae
AuthorClark, David A.
Odell, Seth R.
Armstrong, Joanna M.
Schmidt, Deena R.
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An animal's ability to navigate an olfactory environment is critically dependent on the activities of its first-order olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs). While considerable research has focused on ORN responses to odorants, the mechanisms by which olfactory information is encoded in the activities of ORNs and translated into navigational behavior remain poorly understood. We sought to determine the contributions of most Drosophila melanogaster larval ORNs to navigational behavior. Using odorants to activate ORNs and a larval tracking assay to measure the corresponding behavioral response, we observed that larval ORN activators cluster into four groups based on the behavior responses elicited from larvae. This is significant because it provides new insights into the functional relationship between ORN activity and behavioral response. Subsequent optogenetic analyses of a subset of ORNs revealed previously undescribed properties of larval ORNs. Furthermore, our results indicated that different temporal patterns of ORN activation elicit different behavioral outputs: some ORNs respond to stimulus increments while others respond to stimulus decrements. These results suggest that the ability of ORNs to encode temporal patterns of stimulation increases the coding capacity of the olfactory circuit. Moreover, the ability of ORNs to sense stimulus increments and decrements facilitates instantaneous evaluations of concentration changes in the environment. Together, these ORN properties enable larvae to efficiently navigate a complex olfactory environment. Ultimately, knowledge of how ORN activity patterns and their weighted contributions influence odor coding may eventually reveal how peripheral information is organized and transmitted to subsequent layers of a neural circuit.