Subtype-Specific Roles of Ellipsoid Body Ring Neurons in Sleep Regulation in Drosophila

J Neurosci. 2023 Feb 1;43(5):764-786. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1350-22.2022. Epub 2022 Dec 19.


The ellipsoid body (EB) is a major structure of the central complex of the Drosophila melanogaster brain. Twenty-two subtypes of EB ring neurons have been identified based on anatomic and morphologic characteristics by light-level microscopy and EM connectomics. A few studies have associated ring neurons with the regulation of sleep homeostasis and structure. However, cell type-specific and population interactions in the regulation of sleep remain unclear. Using an unbiased thermogenetic screen of EB drivers using female flies, we found the following: (1) multiple ring neurons are involved in the modulation of amount of sleep and structure in a synergistic manner; (2) analysis of data for ΔP(doze)/ΔP(wake) using a mixed Gaussian model detected 5 clusters of GAL4 drivers which had similar effects on sleep pressure and/or depth: lines driving arousal contained R4m neurons, whereas lines that increased sleep pressure had R3m cells; (3) a GLM analysis correlating ring cell subtype and activity-dependent changes in sleep parameters across all lines identified several cell types significantly associated with specific sleep effects: R3p was daytime sleep-promoting, and R4m was nighttime wake-promoting; and (4) R3d cells present in 5HT7-GAL4 and in GAL4 lines, which exclusively affect sleep structure, were found to contribute to fragmentation of sleep during both day and night. Thus, multiple subtypes of ring neurons distinctively control sleep amount and/or structure. The unique highly interconnected structure of the EB suggests a local-network model worth future investigation; understanding EB subtype interactions may provide insight how sleep circuits in general are structured.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT How multiple brain regions, with many cell types, can coherently regulate sleep remains unclear, but identification of cell type-specific roles can generate opportunities for understanding the principles of integration and cooperation. The ellipsoid body (EB) of the fly brain exhibits a high level of connectivity and functional heterogeneity yet is able to tune multiple behaviors in real-time, including sleep. Leveraging the powerful genetic tools available in Drosophila and recent progress in the characterization of the morphology and connectivity of EB ring neurons, we identify several EB subtypes specifically associated with distinct aspects of sleep. Our findings will aid in revealing the rules of coding and integration in the brain.

Keywords: Drosophila melanogaster; central complex; ellipsoid body; ring neurons; sleep; sleep structure.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arousal / physiology
  • Drosophila Proteins* / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins* / metabolism
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology
  • Drosophila* / metabolism
  • Female
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Sleep / physiology


  • Drosophila Proteins