Hormone-controlled changes in the differentiation state of post-mitotic neurons

Curr Biol. 2022 May 23;32(10):2341-2348.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2022.04.027. Epub 2022 May 3.


While we think of neurons as having a fixed identity, many show spectacular plasticity.1-10 Metamorphosis drives massive changes in the fly brain;11,12 neurons that persist into adulthood often change in response to the steroid hormone ecdysone.13,14 Besides driving remodeling,11-14 ecdysone signaling can also alter the differentiation status of neurons.7,15 The three sequentially born subtypes of mushroom body (MB) Kenyon cells (γ, followed by α'/β', and finally α/β)16 serve as a model of temporal fating.17-21 γ neurons are also used as a model of remodeling during metamorphosis. As γ neurons are the only functional Kenyon cells in the larval brain, they serve the function of all three adult subtypes. Correspondingly, larval γ neurons have a similar morphology to α'/β' and α/β neurons-their axons project dorsally and medially. During metamorphosis, γ neurons remodel to form a single medial projection. Both temporal fate changes and defects in remodeling therefore alter γ-neuron morphology in similar ways. Mamo, a broad-complex, tramtrack, and bric-à-brac/poxvirus and zinc finger (BTB/POZ) transcription factor critical for temporal specification of α'/β' neurons,18,19 was recently described as essential for γ remodeling.22 In a previous study, we noticed a change in the number of adult Kenyon cells expressing γ-specific markers when mamo was manipulated.18 These data implied a role for Mamo in γ-neuron fate specification, yet mamo is not expressed in γ neurons until pupariation,18,22 well past γ specification. This indicates that mamo has a later role in ensuring that γ neurons express the correct Kenyon cell subtype-specific genes in the adult brain.

Keywords: de-differentiation; ecdysone; mamo; metamorphosis; mushroom body; neuronal identity; plasticity; remodeling; specification; γ neuron.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Ecdysone*
  • Larva
  • Mushroom Bodies* / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology


  • Ecdysone