Researchers at the Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP) in Vienna present novel method to study the activity of specific brain regions in moving flies.
In a joint effort with collaboration partners from the Vienna University of Technology and a lab in the USA, the team of Andrew Straw at the IMP developed a special device for the thermogenetic control of flies. This tool, called FlyMAD, enabled the scientists to target light or heat to specific body regions of flies in motion and to analyse the animals‘ brain cells. Compared to other techniques, FlyMAD allows highly improved temporal resolution. Using the new technology, Straw and his colleagues got new insight into the role of two neuronal cell types in courtship behavior of flies. The results of the study will be published online in Nature Methods on May 25 (doi 10.1038/nmeth.2973).
This composite image shows a laser being aimed at a walking fly using the FlyMAD system.
Matt Staley and Dan Bath, JFRC, HHMI
A male Drosophila raises a wing and ‘sings’ due to neuronal activation of song neurons.
Dan Bath, JFRC, HHMI
The fruit fly Drosophila Melanogaster represents an ideal experimental system to analyse circuit functions of brain cells (neurons). In the past, it was not possible to specifically control the activity of neurons in moving flies. Andrew Straw and his team have now overcome this barrier.
Rapid mind alteration in moving flies
Straw and his co-workers are interested in the mechanisms underlying cell circuits in the fly brain. Straw’s group concentrates on the control of complex behaviors such as courtship. In order to better understand how different neuronal circuits work together, Straw and his team developed FlyMAD (“Fly Mind Altering Device”), an apparatus using a video camera to track the flies‘ motion in a box. FlyMAD allows simultaneous observation of several flies and targeted irradiation of specific body regions of these animals. By combining the sensitive methods of optogenetics and thermogenetics, the researchers were able to specifically alter neural pathways in the fly brain with FlyMAD.
The novel technology of thermogenetics uses genetically modified, temperature-sensitive flies. Upon irradiation with infrared light and the concomitant rise in temperature to 30 degrees Celsius, these animals change certain aspects of their behavior. This does not happen at a control temperature of 24 degrees Celsius. Compared to other commonly used methods, FlyMAD applies a highly improved temporal resolution. Infrared-induced activation or repression of specific neurons and the following change in the animals‘ behavior occur within the fraction of a second.
The application of visible light to certain genetically engineered flies can also induce alterations of their brain. FlyMAD thus represents an absolute novelty for fly research, as optogenetics has been restricted to mice so far.
New insight into courtship behavior of flies
Straw and his co-workers tested FlyMAD by analyzing already known reactions of genetically modified flies to light and heat. As this proof-of-principle showed that FlyMAD worked reliably – for example by making the flies “moonwalk” - the researchers went on to use their method to tackle new scientific questions. In a thermogenetic set up, they investigated a certain type of neurons that had been linked to the flies’ courtship song in earlier experiments. Taking advantage of the better temporal resolution of FlyMAD, the scientists were able to characterize the role of two neuronal cell types in the brain in more detail. They could show that activity of one type of neurons correlated with a persistent state of courtship, whereas the other cell type was important for the action of “singing”. In the experiment this became obvious when males tried to mate with a ball of wax, circled it and started vibrating their wings after stimulation with the laser beam.
FlyMAD allows combination of optogenetics and thermogenetics
In the future, Straw wants to combine the activation of flies both by light and by heat in one experiment – that is feasible with FlyMAD. This would allow the activation or repression of different genetic elements in one fly. „FlyMAD offers the fantastic opportunity to address many of our questions. We could, for example, analyze how single neurons function in a cascade within the neuronal circuit“, Straw emphasizes the potential of his work. Ultimately, new insight into the function of the fly brain can also be applied to the network of cells in the mammalian brain.
Daniel E. Bath, John R. Stowers, Dorothea Hörmann, Andreas Poehlmann, Barry J. Dickson and Andrew D. Straw. FlyMAD: Rapid thermogenetic control of neuronal activity in freely-walking Drosophila. Nature Methods, doi 10.1038/nmeth.2973, 2014
This work was funded by a postgraduate scholarship from Canada, an ERC starting grant, a WWTF grant, an ERC Advanced Grant and by IMP core funding.
Illustrations to be used free of charge in connection with this press release can be downloaded from the IMP website: www.imp.ac.at/pressefoto-flymad
About Andrew Straw
Andrew Straw studied biology in Los Angeles, USA, and obtained his PhD in Adelaide in 2004 for his dissertation in the field of neurobiology. He worked as a Postdoc and Senior Postdoc at Caltech in Pasadena, USA, and became Senior Research Fellow there in 2010. Since 2010, Straw holds a position as Research Fellow at the IMP in Vienna where he has his own independent research group. His work is partly funded by an ERC Starting grant.
About the IMP
The Research Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP) in Vienna is a basic biomedical research institute largely sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim. With over 200 scientists from 37 nations, the IMP is committed to scientific discovery of fundamental molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying complex biological phenomena. Research areas include cell and molecular biology, neurobiology, disease mechanisms and computational biology.
Andrew Straw, PhD
Dr. Heidemarie Hurtl
Phone: +43 (0)664 8247910
Mag. Evelyn Devuyst, MAS
Phone: +43 1 79044 3626
Phone: +43 1 79730 3824
Dr. Heidemarie Hurtl | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
The first genome of a coral reef fish
29.09.2016 | King Abdullah University of Science and Technology
New switch decides between genome repair and death of cells
27.09.2016 | University of Cologne - Universität zu Köln
Friction stir welding is a still-young and thus often unfamiliar pressure welding process for joining flat components and semi-finished components made of light metals.
Scientists at the University of Stuttgart have now developed two new process variants that will considerably expand the areas of application for friction stir welding.
Technologie-Lizenz-Büro (TLB) GmbH supports the University of Stuttgart in patenting and marketing its innovations.
Friction stir welding is a still-young and thus often unfamiliar pressure welding process for joining flat components and semi-finished components made of...
Optical quantum computers can revolutionize computer technology. A team of researchers led by scientists from Münster University and KIT now succeeded in putting a quantum optical experimental set-up onto a chip. In doing so, they have met one of the requirements for making it possible to use photonic circuits for optical quantum computers.
Optical quantum computers are what people are pinning their hopes on for tomorrow’s computer technology – whether for tap-proof data encryption, ultrafast...
The Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP has been developing various applications for OLED microdisplays based on organic semiconductors. By integrating the capabilities of an image sensor directly into the microdisplay, eye movements can be recorded by the smart glasses and utilized for guidance and control functions, as one example. The new design will be debuted at Augmented World Expo Europe (AWE) in Berlin at Booth B25, October 18th – 19th.
“Augmented-reality” and “wearables” have become terms we encounter almost daily. Both can make daily life a little simpler and provide valuable assistance for...
With the help of artificial intelligence, chemists from the University of Basel in Switzerland have computed the characteristics of about two million crystals made up of four chemical elements. The researchers were able to identify 90 previously unknown thermodynamically stable crystals that can be regarded as new materials. They report on their findings in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.
Elpasolite is a glassy, transparent, shiny and soft mineral with a cubic crystal structure. First discovered in El Paso County (Colorado, USA), it can also be...
For the first time, Fraunhofer IKTS shows additively manufactured hardmetal tools at WorldPM 2016 in Hamburg. Mechanical, chemical as well as a high heat resistance and extreme hardness are required from tools that are used in mechanical and automotive engineering or in plastics and building materials industry. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS in Dresden managed the production of complex hardmetal tools via 3D printing in a quality that are in no way inferior to conventionally produced high-performance tools.
Fraunhofer IKTS counts decades of proven expertise in the development of hardmetals. To date, reliable cutting, drilling, pressing and stamping tools made of...
29.09.2016 | Event News
28.09.2016 | Event News
27.09.2016 | Event News
29.09.2016 | Materials Sciences
29.09.2016 | Materials Sciences
29.09.2016 | Interdisciplinary Research