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Trends Neurosci. 2006 Aug;29(8):444-51. Epub 2006 Jun 27.

Blueprints for behavior: genetic specification of neural circuitry for innate behaviors.

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Medical Scientist Training Program, Neurosciences Program and Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-5020, USA.


Innate behaviors offer a unique opportunity to use genetic analysis to dissect and characterize the neural substrates of complex behavioral programs. Courtship in Drosophila involves a complex series of stereotyped behaviors that include numerous exchanges of multimodal sensory information over time. As we will discuss in this review, recent work has demonstrated that male-specific expression of Fruitless transcription factors (Fru(M) proteins) is necessary and sufficient to confer the potential for male courtship behaviors. Fru(M) factors program neurons of the male central and peripheral nervous systems whose function is dedicated to sexual behaviors. This circuitry seems to integrate sensory information to define behavioral states and regulate conserved neural elements for sex-specific behavioral output. The principles that govern the circuitry specified by Fru(M) expression might also operate in subcortical networks that govern innate behaviors in mammals.

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