Structural aspects of plasticity in the nervous system of Drosophila

Neural Dev. 2018 Jul 1;13(1):14. doi: 10.1186/s13064-018-0111-z.


Neurons extend and retract dynamically their neurites during development to form complex morphologies and to reach out to their appropriate synaptic partners. Their capacity to undergo structural rearrangements is in part maintained during adult life when it supports the animal's ability to adapt to a changing environment or to form lasting memories. Nonetheless, the signals triggering structural plasticity and the mechanisms that support it are not yet fully understood at the molecular level. Here, we focus on the nervous system of the fruit fly to ask to which extent activity modulates neuronal morphology and connectivity during development. Further, we summarize the evidence indicating that the adult nervous system of flies retains some capacity for structural plasticity at the synaptic or circuit level. For simplicity, we selected examples mostly derived from studies on the visual system and on the mushroom body, two regions of the fly brain with extensively studied neuroanatomy.

Keywords: Active zone; Drosophila; Learning; Mushroom body; Mushroom body calyx; Photoreceptors; Structural plasticity; Synapse.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila / physiology*
  • Nervous System / cytology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology*