Visualization of learning-induced synaptic plasticity in output neurons of the Drosophila mushroom body γ-lobe

Sci Rep. 2022 Jun 21;12(1):10421. doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-14413-5.


By learning, through experience, which stimuli coincide with dangers, it is possible to predict outcomes and act pre-emptively to ensure survival. In insects, this process is localized to the mushroom body (MB), the circuitry of which facilitates the coincident detection of sensory stimuli and punishing or rewarding cues and, downstream, the execution of appropriate learned behaviors. Here, we focused our attention on the mushroom body output neurons (MBONs) of the γ-lobes that act as downstream synaptic partners of the MB γ-Kenyon cells (KCs) to ask how the output of the MB γ-lobe is shaped by olfactory associative conditioning, distinguishing this from non-associative stimulus exposure effects, and without the influence of downstream modulation. This was achieved by employing a subcellularly localized calcium sensor to specifically monitor activity at MBON postsynaptic sites. Therein, we identified a robust associative modulation within only one MBON postsynaptic compartment (MBON-γ1pedc > α/β), which displayed a suppressed postsynaptic response to an aversively paired odor. While this MBON did not undergo non-associative modulation, the reverse was true across the remainder of the γ-lobe, where general odor-evoked adaptation was observed, but no conditioned odor-specific modulation. In conclusion, associative synaptic plasticity underlying aversive olfactory learning is localized to one distinct synaptic γKC-to-γMBON connection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology
  • Drosophila* / physiology
  • Learning
  • Mushroom Bodies* / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Odorants
  • Smell / physiology