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PLoS One. 2011;6(12):e29019. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0029019. Epub 2011 Dec 28.

Optical dissection of neural circuits responsible for Drosophila larval locomotion with halorhodopsin.

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Department of Complexity Science and Engineering, Graduate School of Frontier Sciences, University of Tokyo, Kashiwanoha, Kashiwa, Chiba, Japan.


Halorhodopsin (NpHR), a light-driven microbial chloride pump, enables silencing of neuronal function with superb temporal and spatial resolution. Here, we generated a transgenic line of Drosophila that drives expression of NpHR under control of the Gal4/UAS system. Then, we used it to dissect the functional properties of neural circuits that regulate larval peristalsis, a continuous wave of muscular contraction from posterior to anterior segments. We first demonstrate the effectiveness of NpHR by showing that global and continuous NpHR-mediated optical inhibition of motor neurons or sensory feedback neurons induce the same behavioral responses in crawling larvae to those elicited when the function of these neurons are inhibited by Shibire(ts), namely complete paralyses or slowed locomotion, respectively. We then applied transient and/or focused light stimuli to inhibit the activity of motor neurons in a more temporally and spatially restricted manner and studied the effects of the optical inhibition on peristalsis. When a brief light stimulus (1-10 sec) was applied to a crawling larva, the wave of muscular contraction stopped transiently but resumed from the halted position when the light was turned off. Similarly, when a focused light stimulus was applied to inhibit motor neurons in one or a few segments which were about to be activated in a dissected larva undergoing fictive locomotion, the propagation of muscular constriction paused during the light stimulus but resumed from the halted position when the inhibition (>5 sec) was removed. These results suggest that (1) Firing of motor neurons at the forefront of the wave is required for the wave to proceed to more anterior segments, and (2) The information about the phase of the wave, namely which segment is active at a given time, can be memorized in the neural circuits for several seconds.

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