Normal dendrite growth in Drosophila motor neurons requires the AP-1 transcription factor

Dev Neurobiol. 2008 Sep 1;68(10):1225-42. doi: 10.1002/dneu.20655.


During learning and memory formation, information flow through networks is regulated significantly through structural alterations in neurons. Dendrites, sites of signal integration, are key targets of activity-mediated modifications. Although local mechanisms of dendritic growth ensure synapse-specific changes, global mechanisms linking neural activity to nuclear gene expression may have profound influences on neural function. Fos, being an immediate-early gene, is ideally suited to be an initial transducer of neural activity, but a precise role for the AP-1 transcription factor in dendrite growth remains to be elucidated. Here we measure changes in the dendritic fields of identified Drosophila motor neurons in vivo and in primary culture to investigate the role of the immediate-early transcription factor AP-1 in regulating endogenous and activity-induced dendrite growth. Our data indicate that (a) increased neural excitability or depolarization stimulates dendrite growth, (b) AP-1 (a Fos, Jun hetero-dimer) is required for normal motor neuron dendritic growth during development and in response to activity induction, and (c) neuronal Fos protein levels are rapidly but transiently induced in motor neurons following neural activity. Taken together, these results show that AP-1 mediated transcription is important for dendrite growth, and that neural activity influences global dendritic growth through a gene-expression dependent mechanism gated by AP-1.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Central Nervous System / cytology
  • Central Nervous System / growth & development*
  • Dendrites / metabolism*
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Drosophila melanogaster / cytology
  • Drosophila melanogaster / growth & development*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / genetics
  • Genes, Immediate-Early / genetics
  • Motor Neurons / cytology
  • Motor Neurons / metabolism
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos / metabolism
  • Synaptic Transmission / genetics
  • Transcription Factor AP-1 / genetics
  • Transcription Factor AP-1 / metabolism*


  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos
  • Transcription Factor AP-1