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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Dec 23;100(26):16053-8. Epub 2003 Dec 12.

Dynamic analysis of larval locomotion in Drosophila chordotonal organ mutants.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA.


Rhythmic movements, such as peristaltic contraction, are initiated by output from central pattern generator (CPG) networks in the CNS. These oscillatory networks elicit locomotion in the absence of external sensory or descending inputs, but CPG circuits produce more directed and behaviorally relevant movement via peripheral nervous system (PNS) input. Drosophila melanogaster larval locomotion results from patterned muscle contractions moving stereotypically along the body segments, but without PNS feedback, contraction of body segments is uncoordinated. We have dissected the role of a subset of mechanosensory neurons in the larval PNS, the chordotonal organs (chos), in providing sensory feedback to the locomotor CPG circuit with dias (Dynamic Image Analysis System) software. We analyzed mutants carrying cho mutations including atonal, a cho proneural gene, beethoven, a cho cilia class mutant, smetana and touch-insensitive larva B, two axonemal mutants, and 5D10, a weak cho mutant. All cho mutants have defects in gross path morphology compared to controls. These mutants exhibit increased frequency and duration of turning (decision-making) and reduced duration of linear locomotion. Furthermore, cho mutants affect locomotor parameters, including reduced average speed, direction change, and persistence. Dias analysis of peristaltic waves indicates that mutants exhibit reduced average speed, positive flow and negative flow, and increased stride period. Thus, cho sensilla are major proprioceptive components that underlie touch sensitivity, locomotion, and peristaltic contraction by providing sensory feedback to the locomotor CPG circuit in larvae.

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