Command-like descending neurons can induce many behaviors, such as backward locomotion, escape, feeding, courtship, egg-laying, or grooming (we define 'command-like neuron' as a neuron whose activation elicits or 'commands' a specific behavior). In most animals it remains unknown how neural circuits switch between antagonistic behaviors: via top-down activation/inhibition of antagonistic circuits or via reciprocal inhibition between antagonistic circuits. Here we use genetic screens, intersectional genetics, circuit reconstruction by electron microscopy, and functional optogenetics to identify a bilateral pair of Drosophila larval 'mooncrawler descending neurons' (MDNs) with command-like ability to coordinately induce backward locomotion and block forward locomotion; the former by stimulating a backward-active premotor neuron, and the latter by disynaptic inhibition of a forward-specific premotor neuron. In contrast, direct monosynaptic reciprocal inhibition between forward and backward circuits was not observed. Thus, MDNs coordinate a transition between antagonistic larval locomotor behaviors. Interestingly, larval MDNs persist into adulthood, where they can trigger backward walking. Thus, MDNs induce backward locomotion in both limbless and limbed animals.
All data presented in this study are available as supplemental files.
- Richard D Fetter
- Aref Arzan Zarin
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
- Ronald L Calabrese, Emory University, United States
© 2018, Carreira-Rosario et al.
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