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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Aug 13;110(33):13612-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1312477110. Epub 2013 Jul 29.

Sound response mediated by the TRP channels NOMPC, NANCHUNG, and INACTIVE in chordotonal organs of Drosophila larvae.

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  • 1Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Department of Physiology, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94158, USA.


Mechanical stimuli, including tactile and sound signals, convey a variety of information important for animals to navigate the environment and avoid predators. Recent studies have revealed that Drosophila larvae can sense harsh or gentle touch with dendritic arborization (da) neurons in the body wall and can detect vibration with chordotonal organs (Cho). Whether they can also detect and respond to vibration or sound from their predators remains an open question. Here we report that larvae respond to sound of wasps and yellow jackets, as well as to pure tones of frequencies that are represented in such natural sounds, with startle and burrowing behaviors. The larval response to sound/vibration requires Cho neurons and, to a lesser extent, class IV da neurons. Our calcium imaging and electrophysiological experiments reveal that Cho neurons, but not class IV da neurons, are excited by natural sounds or pure tones, with tuning curves and intensity dependence appropriate for the behavioral responses. Furthermore, our study implicates the transient receptor potential (TRP) channels NOMPC, NANCHUNG, and INACTIVE, but not the dmPIEZO channel, in the mechanotransduction and/or signal amplification for the detection of sound by the larval Cho neurons. These findings indicate that larval Cho, like their counterparts in the adult fly, use some of the same mechanotransduction channels to detect sound waves and mediate the sensation akin to hearing in Drosophila larvae, allowing them to respond to the appearance of predators or other environmental cues at a distance with behaviors crucial for survival.

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