Neural Circuitry that Evokes Escape Behavior upon Activation of Nociceptive Sensory Neurons in Drosophila Larvae
Noxious stimuli trigger a stereotyped escape response in animals. In Drosophila larvae, class IV dendrite arborization (C4 da) sensory neurons in the peripheral nervous system are responsible for perception of multiple nociceptive modalities, including noxious heat and harsh mechanical stimulation, through distinct receptors [1–9]. Silencing or ablation of C4 da neurons largely eliminates larval responses to noxious stimuli [10–12], whereas optogenetic activation of C4 da neurons is sufficient to provoke corkscrew-like rolling behavior similar to what is observed when larvae receive noxious stimuli, such as high temperature or harsh mechanical stimulation [10–12]. The receptors and the regulatory mechanisms for C4 da activation in response to a variety of noxious stimuli have been well studied [13–23], yet how C4 da activation triggers the escape behavior in the circuit level is still incompletely understood. Here we identify segmentally arrayed local interneurons (medial clusters of C4 da second-order interneurons [mCSIs]) in the ventral nerve cord that are necessary and sufficient to trigger rolling behavior. GFP reconstitution across synaptic partners (GRASP) analysis indicates that C4 da axons form synapses with mCSI dendrites. Optogenetic activation of mCSIs induces the rolling behavior, whereas silencing mCSIs reduces the probability of rolling behavior upon C4 da activation. Further anatomical and functional studies suggest that the C4 da-mCSI nociceptive circuit evokes rolling behavior at least in part through segmental nerve a (SNa) motor neurons. Our findings thus uncover a local circuit that promotes escape behavior upon noxious stimuli in Drosophila larvae and provide mechanistic insights into how noxious stimuli are transduced into the stereotyped escape behavior in the circuit level.
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