Analysis of functional neuronal connectivity in the Drosophila brain

J Neurophysiol. 2012 Jul;108(2):684-96. doi: 10.1152/jn.00110.2012. Epub 2012 Apr 25.


Drosophila melanogaster is a valuable model system for the neural basis of complex behavior, but an inability to routinely interrogate physiologic connections within central neural networks of the fly brain remains a fundamental barrier to progress in the field. To address this problem, we have introduced a simple method of measuring functional connectivity based on the independent expression of the mammalian P2X2 purinoreceptor and genetically encoded Ca(2+) and cAMP sensors within separate genetically defined subsets of neurons in the adult brain. We show that such independent expression is capable of specifically rendering defined sets of neurons excitable by pulses of bath-applied ATP in a manner compatible with high-resolution Ca(2+) and cAMP imaging in putative follower neurons. Furthermore, we establish that this approach is sufficiently sensitive for the detection of excitatory and modulatory connections deep within larval and adult brains. This technically facile approach can now be used in wild-type and mutant genetic backgrounds to address functional connectivity within neuronal networks governing a wide range of complex behaviors in the fly. Furthermore, the effectiveness of this approach in the fly brain suggests that similar methods using appropriate heterologous receptors might be adopted for other widely used model systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Molecular Imaging / methods*
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*