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J Comp Neurol. 2005 Oct 10;491(1):46-55.

Synaptic ultrastructure of Drosophila Johnston's organ axon terminals as revealed by an enhancer trap.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1324, USA.


The role of auditory circuitry is to decipher relevant information from acoustic signals. Acoustic parameters used by different insect species vary widely. All these auditory systems, however, share a common transducer: tympanal organs as well as the Drosophila flagellar ears use chordotonal organs as the auditory mechanoreceptors. We here describe the central neural projections of the Drosophila Johnston's organ (JO). These neurons, which represent the antennal auditory organ, terminate in the antennomechanosensory center. To ensure correct identification of these terminals we made use of a beta-galactosidase-expressing transgene that labels JO neurons specifically. Analysis of these projection pathways shows that parallel JO fibers display extensive contacts, including putative gap junctions. We find that the synaptic boutons show both chemical synaptic structures as well as putative gap junctions, indicating mixed synapses, and belong largely to the divergent type, with multiple small postsynaptic processes. The ultrastructure of JO fibers and synapses may indicate an ability to process temporally discretized acoustic information.

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