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J Neurogenet. 1997 Nov;11(3-4):231-54.

Morphometric description of the wandering behavior in Drosophila larvae: aberrant locomotion in Na+ and K+ channel mutants revealed by computer-assisted motion analysis.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Iowa, Iowa City 52242, USA.


Wandering is a simple behavior in Drosophila larvae prior to metamorphosis. Using the Dynamic Image Analysis System (DIAS) initially developed for analyzing amoeboic movements of single cells, we have analyzed videotaped behaviors of Drosophila larvae at the wandering stage. Previous studies show that mutations in the Na+ channel gene paralytic (para) cause paralysis at 29 degrees C, and mutations in the K+ channel beta subunit gene Hyperkinetic (Hk) lead to leg-shaking under ether anesthesia. The application of DIAS revealed quantifiable abnormalities in the larval locomotion of both ion channel mutants even under "permissive" conditions. Analysis of centroid movement indicates that, compared to wild type, both Hk and para larvae crawled at a slower average speed, but a similar peak instantaneous speed during a contraction cycle. Nevertheless, contraction in the body length was greater in mutants, implying a lower efficiency in conversion of muscular contraction to distance translocation. In addition, each mutant produced a characteristic crawling pattern distinct from the wild-type control. The larval crawling pattern was determined by periods of linear locomotion interposed by non-locomotive, "searching and decision-making" episodes, after which the crawling was resumed in a new direction. Our results demonstrate that mutations in single ion channel subunits resulted in stereotypic modifications in locomotion control and crawling patterns, and that DIAS is a powerful tool in revealing subtle differences in animal behavior and quantifying mutational effects on the interplay of discrete behavioral components.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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