Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 23977118
Link to DOI – 10.1371/journal.pone.0071706
PLoS One 2013 ; 8(8): e71706
All organisms react to noxious and mechanical stimuli but we still lack a complete understanding of cellular and molecular mechanisms by which somatosensory information is transformed into appropriate motor outputs. The small number of neurons and excellent genetic tools make Drosophila larva an especially tractable model system in which to address this problem. We developed high throughput assays with which we can simultaneously expose more than 1,000 larvae per man-hour to precisely timed noxious heat, vibration, air current, or optogenetic stimuli. Using this hardware in combination with custom software we characterized larval reactions to somatosensory stimuli in far greater detail than possible previously. Each stimulus evoked a distinctive escape strategy that consisted of multiple actions. The escape strategy was context-dependent. Using our system we confirmed that the nociceptive class IV multidendritic neurons were involved in the reactions to noxious heat. Chordotonal (ch) neurons were necessary for normal modulation of head casting, crawling and hunching, in response to mechanical stimuli. Consistent with this we observed increases in calcium transients in response to vibration in ch neurons. Optogenetic activation of ch neurons was sufficient to evoke head casting and crawling. These studies significantly increase our understanding of the functional roles of larval ch neurons. More generally, our system and the detailed description of wild type reactions to somatosensory stimuli provide a basis for systematic identification of neurons and genes underlying these behaviors.