neuron; signalling; Drosophila; evolution; apoptosis; olfaction; circuit; receptor
Chai Phing Chian, Cruchet Steeve, Wigger Leonore, Benton Richard (2019), Sensory neuron lineage mapping and manipulation in the Drosophila olfactory system, in Nature Communications
, 10(1), 643-643.
LeBoeuf Adria C., Cohanim Amir B., Stoffel Céline, Brent Colin S., Waridel Patrice, Privman Eyal, Keller Laurent, Benton Richard (2018), Molecular evolution of juvenile hormone esterase-like proteins in a socially exchanged fluid, in Scientific Reports
, 8(1), 17830-17830.
Arguello J. Roman, Benton Richard (2017), Open questions: Tackling Darwin’s “instincts”: the genetic basis of behavioral evolution, in BMC Biology
, 15(1), 26-26.
Sánchez-Alcañiz Juan Antonio, Benton Richard (2017), Multisensory neural integration of chemical and mechanical signals, in BioEssays
, 39(8), 1700060-1700060.
Over evolutionary timescales, animal olfactory systems must adapt to ever-changing environmental conditions to favour a species’ survival. This long-term process is apparent in the existence of several structurally and functionally distinct olfactory subsystems that are composed of dozens to hundreds of discrete populations of olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs). Each of these neural populations is defined by the olfactory receptor(s) it expresses and the glomerulus it innervates in the brain, linking detection of specific odors in the external world to adaptive internal perceptions and behavioral responses. Comparison across species reveals enormous diversity in the number, organisation and function of olfactory sensory pathways, even within phyla, suggesting that evolutionary innovations in animal olfactory systems have relatively simple genetic underpinnings. However, the molecular and cellular basis of this process is very poorly understood.The proposed research addresses this fundamental problem in Drosophila melanogaster, whose olfactory circuits are organised with a similar logic to those of mammals but which are less numerous and experimentally more tractable. There are two conceptually distinct aims. In Aim 1, we will mine a comparative transcriptomics dataset of the Drosophila olfactory subsystems - which are defined by their expression of either Odorant Receptor (OR) or Ionotropic Receptor (IR) gene families - through histological and functional screens to identify novel molecules that contribute to the different developmental, morphological, neuroanatomical and physiological properties of these subsystems. In Aim 2, we will investigate how manipulations of patterns of developmental programmed cell death (which is prevalent in OSN lineages in Drosophila) is sufficient to produce “new” populations of neurons capable of responding to odors and forming novel functional circuits in the brain.Together, these studies will both identify new molecules involved in olfactory subsystem structure, function and evolution, and determine the extent to which the formation of novel olfactory pathways lies latent in cells normally fated to die. These insights are likely to be of general relevance for understanding evolutionary adaptations of many regions of the nervous system in Drosophila and other animals.