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Learn Mem. 2000 Sep-Oct;7(5):341-52.

A cGMP-dependent protein kinase gene, foraging, modifies habituation-like response decrement of the giant fiber escape circuit in Drosophila.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1324, USA. je-engel@wiu.edu


The Drosophila giant fiber jump-and-flight escape response is a model for genetic analysis of both the physiology and the plasticity of a sensorimotor behavioral pathway. We previously established the electrically induced giant fiber response in intact tethered flies as a model for habituation, a form of nonassociative learning. Here, we show that the rate of stimulus-dependent response decrement of this neural pathway in a habituation protocol is correlated with PKG (cGMP-Dependent Protein Kinase) activity and foraging behavior. We assayed response decrement for natural and mutant rover and sitter alleles of the foraging (for) gene that encodes a Drosophila PKG. Rover larvae and adults, which have higher PKG activities, travel significantly farther while foraging than sitters with lower PKG activities. Response decrement was most rapid in genotypes previously shown to have low PKG activities and sitter-like foraging behavior. We also found differences in spontaneous recovery (the reversal of response decrement during a rest from stimulation) and a dishabituation-like phenomenon (the reversal of response decrement evoked by a novel stimulus). This electrophysiological study in an intact animal preparation provides one of the first direct demonstrations that PKG can affect plasticity in a simple learning paradigm. It increases our understanding of the complex interplay of factors that can modulate the sensitivity of the giant fiber escape response, and it defines a new adult-stage phenotype of the foraging locus. Finally, these results show that behaviorally relevant neural plasticity in an identified circuit can be influenced by a single-locus genetic polymorphism existing in a natural population of Drosophila.

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