Gap junctions are widely distributed in the brains across species and play essential roles in neural information processing. However, the role of gap junctions in insect cognition remains poorly understood. Using a flight simulator paradigm and genetic tools, we found that gap junctions are present in Drosophila Kenyon cells (KCs), the major neurons of the mushroom bodies (MBs), and showed that they play an important role in visual learning and memory. Using a dye coupling approach, we determined the distribution of gap junctions in KCs. Furthermore, we identified a single pair of MB output neurons (MBONs) that possess a gap junction connection to KCs, and provide strong evidence that this connection is also required for visual learning and memory. Together, our results reveal gap junction networks in KCs and the KC-MBON circuit, and bring new insight into the synaptic network underlying fly's visual learning and memory.
- K VijayRaghavan, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, India
© 2016, Liu et al.
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Previously, we developed a novel model for anxiety during motivated behavior by training rats to perform a task where actions executed to obtain a reward were probabilistically punished and observed that after learning, neuronal activity in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC) represent the relationship between action and punishment risk (Park and Moghaddam, 2017). Here, we used male and female rats to expand on the previous work by focusing on neural changes in the dmPFC and VTA that were associated with the learning of probabilistic punishment, and anxiolytic treatment with diazepam after learning. We find that adaptive neural responses of dmPFC and VTA during the learning of anxiogenic contingencies are independent from the punisher experience and occur primarily during the peri-action and reward period. Our results also identify peri-action ramping of VTA neural calcium activity, and VTA-dmPFC correlated activity, as potential markers for the anxiolytic properties of diazepam.
Repressor element 1-silencing transcription factor (REST) is a transcriptional repressor that recognizes neuron-restrictive silencer elements in the mammalian genomes in a tissue- and cell-specific manner. The identity of REST target genes and molecular details of how REST regulates them are emerging. We performed conditional null deletion of Rest (cKO), mainly restricted to murine hair cells (HCs) and auditory neurons (aka spiral ganglion neurons [SGNs]). Null inactivation of full-length REST did not affect the development of normal HCs and SGNs but manifested as progressive hearing loss in adult mice. We found that the inactivation of REST resulted in an increased abundance of Kv7.4 channels at the transcript, protein, and functional levels. Specifically, we found that SGNs and HCs from Rest cKO mice displayed increased Kv7.4 expression and augmented Kv7 currents; SGN’s excitability was also significantly reduced. Administration of a compound with Kv7.4 channel activator activity, fasudil, recapitulated progressive hearing loss in mice. In contrast, inhibition of the Kv7 channels by XE991 rescued the auditory phenotype of Rest cKO mice. Previous studies identified some loss-of-function mutations within the Kv7.4-coding gene, Kcnq4, as a causative factor for progressive hearing loss in mice and humans. Thus, the findings reveal that a critical homeostatic Kv7.4 channel level is required for proper auditory functions.