ON and OFF pathways in Drosophila motion vision

Nature. 2010 Nov 11;468(7321):300-4. doi: 10.1038/nature09545.


Motion vision is a major function of all visual systems, yet the underlying neural mechanisms and circuits are still elusive. In the lamina, the first optic neuropile of Drosophila melanogaster, photoreceptor signals split into five parallel pathways, L1-L5. Here we examine how these pathways contribute to visual motion detection by combining genetic block and reconstitution of neural activity in different lamina cell types with whole-cell recordings from downstream motion-sensitive neurons. We find reduced responses to moving gratings if L1 or L2 is blocked; however, reconstitution of photoreceptor input to only L1 or L2 results in wild-type responses. Thus, the first experiment indicates the necessity of both pathways, whereas the second indicates sufficiency of each single pathway. This contradiction can be explained by electrical coupling between L1 and L2, allowing for activation of both pathways even when only one of them receives photoreceptor input. A fundamental difference between the L1 pathway and the L2 pathway is uncovered when blocking L1 or L2 output while presenting moving edges of positive (ON) or negative (OFF) contrast polarity: blocking L1 eliminates the response to moving ON edges, whereas blocking L2 eliminates the response to moving OFF edges. Thus, similar to the segregation of photoreceptor signals in ON and OFF bipolar cell pathways in the vertebrate retina, photoreceptor signals segregate into ON-L1 and OFF-L2 channels in the lamina of Drosophila.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium Signaling / radiation effects
  • Drosophila melanogaster / cytology
  • Drosophila melanogaster / metabolism
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / radiation effects
  • Female
  • Gap Junctions / metabolism
  • Gap Junctions / radiation effects
  • Light
  • Models, Neurological
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Motion Perception / radiation effects
  • Motion*
  • Optic Lobe, Nonmammalian / cytology
  • Optic Lobe, Nonmammalian / physiology
  • Optic Lobe, Nonmammalian / radiation effects
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Invertebrate / metabolism
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Invertebrate / radiation effects
  • Vision, Ocular / physiology*
  • Vision, Ocular / radiation effects
  • Visual Pathways / cytology
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / radiation effects