Extensive studies in Drosophila have led to the elucidation of the roles of many molecular players involved in the sensorimotor coordination of flight. However, the identification and characterisation of new players can add novel perspectives to the process. In this paper, we show that the extant mutant, jumper, is a hypermorphic allele of the taxi/delilah gene, which encodes a transcription factor. The defective flight of jumper flies results from the insertion of an I-element in the 5'-UTR of taxi gene, leading to an over-expression of the taxi. We also show that the molecular lesion responsible for the taxi1 allele results from a 25 bp deletion leading to a shift in the reading frame at the C-terminus of the taxi coding sequence. Thus, the last 20 residues are replaced by 32 disparate residues in taxi1. Both taxi1, a hypomorphic allele, and the CRISPR-Cas9 knock-out (taxiKO) null allele, show a defective flight phenotype. Electrophysiological studies show taxi hypermorphs, hypomorphs, and knock out flies show abnormal neuronal firing. We further show that neuronal-specific knock-down or over-expression of taxi cause a defect in the brain's inputs to the flight muscles, leading to reduced flight ability. Through transcriptomic analysis of the taxiKO fly head, we have identified several putative targets of Taxi that may play important roles in flight. In conclusion, from molecularly characterising jumper to establishing Taxi's role during Drosophila flight, our work shows that the forward genetics approach still can lead to the identification of novel molecular players required for neuronal transmission.
Keywords: Drosophila; Insect flight; Neuromuscular; Neurons; Sensorimotor; Taxi.
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