Background: The antennal lobe of Drosophila is perhaps one of the best understood neural circuits, because of its well-described anatomical and functional organization and ease of genetic manipulation. Olfactory lobe interneurons - key elements of information processing in this network - are thought to be generated by three identified central brain neuroblasts, all of which generate projection neurons. One of these neuroblasts, located lateral to the antennal lobe, also gives rise to a population of local interneurons, which can either be inhibitory (GABAergic) or excitatory (cholinergic). Recent studies of local interneuron number and diversity suggest that additional populations of this class of neurons exist in the antennal lobe. This implies that other, as yet unidentified, neuroblast lineages may contribute a substantial number of local interneurons to the olfactory circuitry of the antennal lobe.
Results: We identified and characterized a novel glutamatergic local interneuron lineage in the Drosophila antennal lobe. We used MARCM (mosaic analysis with a repressible cell marker) and dual-MARCM clonal analysis techniques to identify this novel lineage unambiguously, and to characterize interneurons contained in the lineage in terms of structure, neurotransmitter identity, and development. We demonstrated the glutamatergic nature of these interneurons by immunohistochemistry and use of an enhancer-trap strain, which reports the expression of the Drosophila vesicular glutamate transporter (DVGLUT). We also analyzed the neuroanatomical features of these local interneurons at single-cell resolution, and documented the marked diversity in their antennal lobe glomerular innervation patterns. Finally, we tracked the development of these dLim-1 and Cut positive interneurons during larval and pupal stages.
Conclusions: We have identified a novel neuroblast lineage that generates neurons in the antennal lobe of Drosophila. This lineage is remarkably homogeneous in three respects. All of the progeny are local interneurons, which are uniform in their glutamatergic neurotransmitter identity, and form oligoglomerular or multiglomerular innervations within the antennal lobe. The identification of this novel lineage and the elucidation of the innervation patterns of its local interneurons (at single cell resolution) provides a comprehensive cellular framework for emerging studies on the formation and function of potentially excitatory local interactions in the circuitry of the Drosophila antennal lobe.