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Genetics. 2015 Apr;199(4):1143-57. doi: 10.1534/genetics.114.172221. Epub 2015 Jan 29.

A novel paradigm for nonassociative long-term memory in Drosophila: predator-induced changes in oviposition behavior.

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Department of Genetics, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Hanover, New Hampshire 03755.
Smurfit Institute of Genetics, Department of Zoology and Trinity College Institute for Neuroscience, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland.
Department of Genetics, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Hanover, New Hampshire 03755


Learning processes in Drosophila have been studied through the use of Pavlovian associative memory tests, and these paradigms have been extremely useful in identifying both genetic factors and neuroanatomical structures that are essential to memory formation. Whether these same genes and brain compartments also contribute to memory formed from nonassociative experiences is not well understood. Exposures to environmental stressors such as predators are known to induce innate behavioral responses and can lead to new memory formation that allows a predator response to persist for days after the predator threat has been removed. Here, we utilize a unique form of nonassociative behavior in Drosophila where female flies detect the presence of endoparasitoid predatory wasps and alter their oviposition behavior to lay eggs in food containing high levels of alcohol. The predator-induced change in fly oviposition preference is maintained for days after wasps are removed, and this persistence in behavior requires a minimum continuous exposure time of 14 hr. Maintenance of this behavior is dependent on multiple long-term memory genes, including orb2, dunce, rutabaga, amnesiac, and Fmr1. Maintenance of the behavior also requires intact synaptic transmission of the mushroom body. Surprisingly, synaptic output from the mushroom body (MB) or the functions of any of these learning and memory genes are not required for the change in behavior when female flies are in constant contact with wasps. This suggests that perception of this predator that leads to an acute change in oviposition behavior is not dependent on the MB or dependent on learning and memory gene functions. Because wasp-induced oviposition behavior can last for days and its maintenance requires a functional MB and the wild-type products of several known learning and memory genes, we suggest that this constitutes a paradigm for a bona fide form of nonassociative long-term memory that is not dependent on associated experiences.


Drosophila melanogaster; behavior; learning and memory; long-term memory

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