Anatomical and genotype-specific mechanosensory responses in Drosophila melanogaster larvae

Josh S. Titlow, Jordan Rice, Zana R. Majeed, Emily Holsopple, Stephanie Biecker, Robin L. Cooper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Afferent neurons commonly exhibit a somatotopic arrangement in the central nervous system that organizes spatially discrete sensory input. We are interested in how that spatial input gets integrated into motor commands. With resources for screening genes and neural circuits, and given that the cells and ion channels that transduce tactile stimuli in Drosophila larvae are remarkably well-characterized, larval mechanosensation is an ideal system for investigating how specific behaviors emerge from localized sensory input. We observed that crawling larvae are more reactive to a 20. mN tactile stimulus on the head than on the tail or abdomen. Behavioral responses that were evoked by the stimuli also depended on where the stimulus was delivered. Differences in relative sensitivity were observed in different genotypes, e.g., a null white mutant and hypomorphic smn mutant are significantly more reactive to tail touches than Canton-S larvae. Responses were inhibited by silencing chemical transmission in a combination of multidendritic and chordotonal neurons, but not by inhibiting any specific subset of neurons. Extracellular recordings from segmental nerves revealed that sensory-evoked responses exhibit spike-timing dependence at the neural circuit level. Tactile stimuli reduced endogenous firing frequency and increased bursting periods when applied during periods of motor activity. The same stimulus initiated bursts of activity when applied during inactive periods. Together, these data depict the spatial and temporal complexity of mechanosensation as it applies to action selection, and provide a foundation for addressing how neural circuits in the CNS adjust their activity to afferent input.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-63
Number of pages10
JournalNeuroscience Research
StatePublished - Jun 1 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for this work was provided by a KBrIN summer research fellowship from the University of Kentucky (JR). We are grateful to Toshihiro Kitamoto, Doug Harrison, and the Bloomington Drosophila Stock Center for providing fly stocks.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Elsevier Ireland Ltd and the Japan Neuroscience Society.


  • Behavior
  • Crawling
  • Drosophila melanogaster larva
  • Electrophysiology
  • Mechanosensory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (all)


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