Behavioral and circuit basis of sucrose rejection by Drosophila females in a simple decision-making task

J Neurosci. 2015 Jan 28;35(4):1396-410. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0992-14.2015.


Drosophila melanogaster egg-laying site selection offers a genetic model to study a simple form of value-based decision. We have previously shown that Drosophila females consistently reject a sucrose-containing substrate and choose a plain (sucrose-free) substrate for egg laying in our sucrose versus plain decision assay. However, either substrate is accepted when it is the sole option. Here we describe the neural mechanism that underlies females' sucrose rejection in our sucrose versus plain assay. First, we demonstrate that females explored the sucrose substrate frequently before most egg-laying events, suggesting that they actively suppress laying eggs on the sucrose substrate as opposed to avoiding visits to it. Second, we show that activating a specific subset of DA neurons triggered a preference for laying eggs on the sucrose substrate over the plain one, suggesting that activating these DA neurons can increase the value of the sucrose substrate for egg laying. Third, we demonstrate that neither ablating nor inhibiting the mushroom body (MB), a known Drosophila learning and decision center, affected females' egg-laying preferences in our sucrose versus plain assay, suggesting that MB does not mediate this specific decision-making task. We propose that the value of a sucrose substrate- as an egg-laying option-can be adjusted by the activities of a specific DA circuit. Once the sucrose substrate is determined to be the lesser valued option, females execute their decision to reject this inferior substrate not by stopping their visits to it, but by actively suppressing their egg-laying motor program during their visits.

Keywords: Drosophila; decision making; dopamine; egg laying; sucrose rejection.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • CD8 Antigens / metabolism
  • Conditioning, Operant / physiology
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Exploratory Behavior
  • Female
  • Food Preferences / physiology*
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Oviposition / physiology
  • Sucrose / administration & dosage*
  • Sweetening Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Temperature
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / metabolism


  • CD8 Antigens
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • GAL4 protein, Drosophila
  • Sweetening Agents
  • Transcription Factors
  • Sucrose
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase