Localization of the contacts between Kenyon cells and aminergic neurons in the Drosophila melanogaster brain using SplitGFP reconstitution

J Comp Neurol. 2013 Dec 1;521(17):3992-4026. doi: 10.1002/cne.23388.


The mushroom body of the insect brain represents a neuronal circuit involved in the control of adaptive behavior, e.g., associative learning. Its function relies on the modulation of Kenyon cell activity or synaptic transmitter release by biogenic amines, e.g., octopamine, dopamine, or serotonin. Therefore, for a comprehensive understanding of the mushroom body, it is of interest not only to determine which modulatory neurons interact with Kenyon cells but also to pinpoint where exactly in the mushroom body they do so. To accomplish the latter, we made use of the GRASP technique and created transgenic Drosophila melanogaster that carry one part of a membrane-bound splitGFP in Kenyon cells, along with a cytosolic red fluorescent marker. The second part of the splitGFP is expressed in distinct neuronal populations using cell-specific Gal4 drivers. GFP is reconstituted only if these neurons interact with Kenyon cells in close proximity, which, in combination with two-photon microscopy, provides a very high spatial resolution. We characterize spatially and microstructurally distinct contact regions between Kenyon cells and dopaminergic, serotonergic, and octopaminergic/tyraminergic neurons in all subdivisions of the mushroom body. Subpopulations of dopaminergic neurons contact complementary lobe regions densely. Octopaminergic/tyraminergic neurons contact Kenyon cells sparsely and are restricted mainly to the calyx, the α'-lobes, and the γ-lobes. Contacts of Kenyon cells with serotonergic neurons are heterogeneously distributed over the entire mushroom body. In summary, the technique enables us to localize precisely a segmentation of the mushroom body by differential contacts with aminergic neurons.

Keywords: Drosophila melanogaster; GRASP; biogenic amines; mushroom body; neural circuit; neuromodulation; splitGFP.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Biogenic Amines / analysis*
  • Biogenic Amines / metabolism
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Cell Communication / physiology*
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / analysis*
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Mushroom Bodies / chemistry*
  • Mushroom Bodies / cytology*
  • Mushroom Bodies / metabolism
  • Neurons / chemistry*
  • Neurons / metabolism


  • Biogenic Amines
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins