Event Abstract

Genetic manipulations in the fruit fly fight club: role of amine neurons studied at a single neuron level

  • 1 Harvard Medical School, Neurobiology, United States

Aggression is a nearly universal feature of the social behavior of animals. In the wild, it is used for access to food and shelter, for protection from predation and for selection of mates. Although not well known until about a decade ago, fighting behavior exists in same sex pairings of male and female fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster). With the genome sequenced and with a wealth of powerful genetic tools available, fruit flies serve as a unique experimental model for the study of complex behaviors like aggression. In early experiments, a quantitative analysis of the behavioral patterns seen during fights revealed that some of the patterns observed were similar in male and female fights while others were unique to male or to female flies. A single gene, fruitless, of the sex determination hierarchy of genes, determined whether flies fought using male or female patterns of aggression. At the end of male fights hierarchical relationships usually were established while at the end of female fights resources were shared. Via inbreeding winners, we could generate highly aggressive “bullies” who fought at higher intensity levels and who always won fights against the parent Canton-S strain. After a single loss to another bully, however, these highly aggressive flies lost all competitive advantage against other flies. Learning and memory accompanied the establishment of hierarchical relationships in male fights, with defeated flies showing a “loser mentality” that influenced the outcomes of future fights.
As in other species, amines including serotonin, dopamine and octopamine (the fly homologue of norepinephrine) all exert influences on multiple aspects of behavior, including aggression. Serotonin, for example, is not required to initiate aggression, but does facilitate going to higher intensity levels in fights. However, serotonin also influences learning and memory, courtship, feeding behavior, etc. There are about 100 of each subtype of amine neurons in the fruit fly nervous system. In this talk, recent studies will be described that take an intersectional genetics approach to allow us to reliably alter the function of single identified amine neurons in living animals and to observe the resultant behavioral phenotypes. In addition, studies will be presented asking how male flies choose between courtship and aggression when approaching a conspecific. Finally data will be presented describing experimental approaches towards unraveling the circuitry concerned with the identified neurons. (supported by NIGMS)

Keywords: Aggression, Dopamine, Drosophila, Genes, Octopamine, Serotonin

Conference: Tenth International Congress of Neuroethology, College Park. Maryland USA, United States, 5 Aug - 10 Aug, 2012.

Presentation Type: Plenary Address (including special lectures) (Note, these individuals have already been invited)

Topic: Genes and Behavior

Citation: Kravitz E (2012). Genetic manipulations in the fruit fly fight club: role of amine neurons studied at a single neuron level. Conference Abstract: Tenth International Congress of Neuroethology. doi: 10.3389/conf.fnbeh.2012.27.00060

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Received: 08 May 2012; Published Online: 07 Jul 2012.

* Correspondence: Prof. Edward A Kravitz, Harvard Medical School, Neurobiology, Boston, MA, 02115, United States, edward_kravitz@hms.harvard.edu