Circuits - Computation - Models: Genetic Circuit Manipulation

Genetic Circuit Manipulation

<div style="text-align: justify;"><strong>Lines to genetically manipulate columnar elements.</strong> <em>Drosophila</em> brains expressing GFP and synaptotagmin with driver lines specific for columnar neurons as indicated. GFP labels the entire cell while synaptotagmin labels exclusively presynaptic sites. Endogenously expressed synaptic protein bruchpilot highlighting the synaptic neuropiles is shown in blue.</div> Zoom Image
Lines to genetically manipulate columnar elements. Drosophila brains expressing GFP and synaptotagmin with driver lines specific for columnar neurons as indicated. GFP labels the entire cell while synaptotagmin labels exclusively presynaptic sites. Endogenously expressed synaptic protein bruchpilot highlighting the synaptic neuropiles is shown in blue.
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A deeper understanding of brain function requires experiments in which the circuit elements are probed and manipulated in a specific, controlled and reproducible fashion. The highly complex connectivity patterns and densely intermingled neuronal processes in central nervous systems pose a great challenge to this objective.

Drosophila transgenic approaches provide opportunities for non-invasive cell-specific manipulations of neuronal function that are not limited by anatomical constraints (Borst, 2009; Venken et al., 2011). The existence of cell-specific DNA regulatory elements is exploited to generate stable transgenic fly lines in which a transcription factor derived from other organisms (usually Gal4 from yeast) is targeted specifically to the neurons of interest. Arbitrary transgenes can now be reliably expressed in this pattern by crossing in Gal4-activatable UAS (upstream activating sequence) responder elements from other stable lines. The use of this modular system is highly versatile and hinges merely on the existence of suitable cell-specific Gal4 and other drivers. For many visual interneurons of interest, we have such specific driver lines at our disposal that can be crossed to actuator lines for cell-specific visualization and manipulation. Silencing of neurons can be achieved for instance by expressing the inwardly rectifying potassium channel Kir2.1 (Baines et al., 2001), the temperature-inducible synaptic inhibitor shibirets (Kitamoto, 2001), synaptobrevin-cleaving tetanus toxin light chain (Sweeney et al., 1995), or the photo-activatable chloride pump Halorhodopsin. As a complementary approach, neurons can be activated with heat using the TrpA1 channel (Marella et al., 2006) or with light using photo-activatable Channelrhodopsin2 (Pulver et al., 2009; Haikala et al., 2013).

<div style="text-align: justify;"><strong>Optogenetic and pharmacologic dissection of the lobula plate connectivity</strong>.The schematic illustrates the anatomical layout of fly visual neuropiles medulla, lobula and lobula plate. One lobula plate tangential cell (LPTC) of the vertical system (VS) is shown in green with recording electrode; the dendrites arborize in layer 4 of the lobula plate. Examples of two T4 and two T5 cells are depicted in red that receive input onto their dendrites in the medulla and lobula, respectively, and convey information to the lobula plate. To probe the synaptic connectivity functionally between T4/T5 and LPTCs we photoactivate T4/T5 cells expressing optogenetic tools and record the synaptic responses in LPTCs electrophysiologically. The micrograph shows an <em>in vivo Drosophila</em> preparation with T4/T5 cells expressing Channel-rhodopsin2-mCherry and an LPTC (VS cell) filled with Alexa488 via a patch electrode. This approach can be combined with pharmacologic block of certain neurotransmitter receptor types.</div> Zoom Image
Optogenetic and pharmacologic dissection of the lobula plate connectivity.The schematic illustrates the anatomical layout of fly visual neuropiles medulla, lobula and lobula plate. One lobula plate tangential cell (LPTC) of the vertical system (VS) is shown in green with recording electrode; the dendrites arborize in layer 4 of the lobula plate. Examples of two T4 and two T5 cells are depicted in red that receive input onto their dendrites in the medulla and lobula, respectively, and convey information to the lobula plate. To probe the synaptic connectivity functionally between T4/T5 and LPTCs we photoactivate T4/T5 cells expressing optogenetic tools and record the synaptic responses in LPTCs electrophysiologically. The micrograph shows an in vivo Drosophila preparation with T4/T5 cells expressing Channel-rhodopsin2-mCherry and an LPTC (VS cell) filled with Alexa488 via a patch electrode. This approach can be combined with pharmacologic block of certain neurotransmitter receptor types.
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If combined with a suitable behavioral readout (Rister et al., 2007) or whole-cell patch-clamp recordings from LPTCs (Joesch et al., 2008), detailed circuit information and function can be inferred from such manipulations (Joesch et al., 2010; Schnell et al., 2012; Bahl et al., 2013; Joesch et al., 2013; Maisak et al., 2013). Alternatively, the cell-specific expression of calcium indicators like TN-XXL (Mank et al., 2008; Reiff et al., 2010) or GCaMP (Maisak et al., 2013) can be used to image neuronal activity and establish visual response properties of neurons that are not accessible to electrodes.

By integrating the outcome from different experimental strategies into detailed models we want to understand the fundamental mechanisms that underlie the detection of visual motion. We thereby also hope to obtain some general insights into how information is processed in brains at the level of circuits, neurons, synapses and molecules.

 

References

Bahl A, Ammer G, Schilling T, Borst A (2013) Object tracking in motion-blind flies. Nat Neurosci 16:730-738.

Baines R, Uhler J, Thompson A, Sweeney S, Bate M (2001) Altered electrical properties in Drosophila neurons developing without synaptic transmission. J Neurosci 21:1523-1531.

Borst A (2009) Drosophila's view on insect vision. Curr Biol 19:R36-R47.

Haikala V, Joesch M, Borst A, Mauss AS (2013) Optogenetic control of fly optomotor responses. J Neurosci 33:13927-13934.

Joesch M, Plett J, Borst A, Reiff D (2008) Response properties of motion-sensitive visual interneurons in the lobula plate of Drosophila melanogaster. Curr Biol 18:368-374.

Joesch M, Weber F, Eichner H, Borst A (2013) Functional specialization of parallel motion detection circuits in the fly. J Neurosci 33:902-905.

Joesch M, Schnell B, Raghu S, Reiff D, Borst A (2010) ON and OFF pathways in Drosophila motion vision. Nature 468:300-304.

Kitamoto T (2001) Conditional modification of behavior in Drosophila by targeted expression of a temperature-sensitive shibire allele in defined neurons. J Neurobiol 47:81-92.

Maisak MS, Haag J, Ammer G, Serbe E, Meier M, Leonhardt A, Schilling T, Bahl A, Rubin GM, Nern A, Dickson BJ, Reiff DF, Hopp E, Borst A (2013) A directional tuning map of Drosophila elementary motion detectors. Nature 500:212-216.

Mank M, Santos A, Direnberger S, Mrsic-Flogel T, Hofer S, Stein V, Hendel T, Reiff D, Levelt C, Borst A, Bonhoeffer T, Hübener M, Griesbeck O (2008) A genetically encoded calcium indicator for chronic in vivo two-photon imaging. Nature Methods 5:805-811.

Marella S, Fischler W, Kong P, Asgarian S, Rueckert E, Scott K (2006) Imaging taste responses in the fly brain reveals a functional map of taste category and behavior. Neuron 49:285-295.

Pulver S, Pashkovski S, Hornstein N, Garrity P, Griffith L (2009) Temporal dynamics of neuronal activation by Channelrhodopsin-2 and TRPA1 determine behavioral output in Drosophila larvae. J Neurophysiol 101:3075-3088.

Reiff D, Plett J, Mank M, Griesbeck O, Borst A (2010) Visualizing retinotopic half-wave rectified input to the motion detection circuitry of Drosophila. Nat Neurosci 13:973-978.

Rister J, Pauls D, Schnell B, Ting CY, Lee CH, Sinakevitch I, Morante J, Strausfeld NJ, Ito K, Heisenberg M (2007) Dissection of the peripheral motion channel in the visual system of Drosophila melanogaster. Neuron 56:155-170.

Schnell B, Raghu S, Nern A, Borst A (2012) Columnar cells necessary for motion responses of wide-field visual interneurons in Drosophila. J Comp Physiol A 198:389-395.

Sweeney S, Broadie K, Keane J, Niemann H, O'Kane C (1995) Targeted expression of tetanus toxin light chain in Drosophila specifically eliminates synaptic transmission and causes behavioral defects. Neuron 14:341-351.

Venken K, Simpson J, Bellen H (2011) Genetic manipulation of genes and cells in the nervous system of the fruit fly. Neuron 72:202-230.

 
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