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J Neurosci. 2013 Nov 6;33(45):17560-8. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3261-13.2013.

New approaches for studying synaptic development, function, and plasticity using Drosophila as a model system.

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Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, Iowa City, Iowa 52242, Stanford Institute for Neuro-innovation and Translational Neurosciences and Department of Neurosurgery, Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, California 94305, Department of Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, Department of Biology, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts 02453, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institute of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, VIB, Center for the Biology of Disease and KU Leuven, Department for Human Genetics, 3000 Leuven, Belgium, and Department of Biology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California 90089.


The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster has been established as a premier experimental model system for neuroscience research. These organisms are genetically tractable, yet their nervous systems are sufficiently complex to study diverse processes that are conserved across metazoans, including neural cell fate determination and migration, axon guidance, synaptogenesis and function, behavioral neurogenetics, and responses to neuronal injury. For several decades, Drosophila neuroscientists have taken advantage of a vast toolkit of genetic and molecular techniques to reveal fundamental principles of neuroscience illuminating to all systems, including the first behavioral mutants from Seymour Benzer's pioneering work in the 1960s and 1970s, the cloning of the first potassium channel in the 1980s, and the identification of the core genes that orchestrate axon guidance and circadian rhythms in the 1990s. Over the past decade, new tools and innovations in genetic, imaging, and electrophysiological technologies have enabled the visualization, in vivo, of dynamic processes in synapses with unprecedented resolution. We will review some of the fresh insights into synaptic development, function, and plasticity that have recently emerged in Drosophila with an emphasis on the unique advantages of this model system.

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