Neuronal circuits are known to integrate nutritional information, but the identity of the circuit components is not completely understood. Amino acids are a class of nutrients that are vital for the growth and function of an organism. Here, we report a neuronal circuit that allows Drosophila larvae to overcome amino acid deprivation and pupariate. We find that nutrient stress is sensed by the class IV multidendritic cholinergic neurons. Through live calcium imaging experiments, we show that these cholinergic stimuli are conveyed to glutamatergic neurons in the ventral ganglion through mAChR. We further show that IP3R-dependent calcium transients in the glutamatergic neurons convey this signal to downstream medial neurosecretory cells (mNSCs). The circuit ultimately converges at the ring gland and regulates expression of ecdysteroid biosynthetic genes. Activity in this circuit is thus likely to be an adaptation that provides a layer of regulation to help surpass nutritional stress during development.
Keywords: D. melanogaster; GPCRs; Optogenetics; muscarinic acetylcholine receptor; neural control of metabolism; neuroscience; ventral ganglion.