Motor Neuron Development and Circuitry

We are studying how the neural circuitry that is required for coordinated walking in adult flies is constructed during development, and how it functions in the adult.

Adult fruit flies walk using six legs that move in a highly coordinated and stereotyped manner. The motor neurons that command these movements are located in the central nervous system (CNS) and send axons to the legs that synapse onto specific muscles. We are characterizing the molecular signatures that give each of these motor neurons their specific identities, focusing on the lineages that they are derived from and the transcription factors they express. In addition, we are developing assays that allow us to monitor fly walking at high resolution, with the goal of carrying out genetic screens to find genes and neurons that are required for motor coordination in the adult.

Current lab members working on this project: Lalanti Venkatasubramanian, Clare Howard, Meredith Peterson, Laura Quintana Rio, Matt Eveland.

Publications

Enriquez J, Venkatasubramanian L, Baek M, Peterson M, Aghayeva U, Mann RS. Specification of individual adult motor neuron morphologies by combinatorial transcription factor codes. Neuron. 2015 May 20;86(4):955-70. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2015.04.011. Epub 2015 May 7. PubMed PMID: 25959734; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4441546.

Mendes CS, Rajendren SV, Bartos I, Márka S, Mann RS. Kinematic responses to changes in walking orientation and gravitational load in Drosophila melanogaster. PLoS One. 2014 Oct 28;9(10):e109204. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0109204. eCollection 2014. PubMed PMID: 25350743; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4211655.

Baek M, Enriquez J, Mann RS. Dual role for Hox genes and Hox co-factors in conferring leg motoneuron survival and identity in Drosophila. Development. 2013 May;140(9):2027-38. doi: 10.1242/dev.090902. Epub 2013 Mar 27. PubMed PMID: 23536569; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3631975.

Mendes CS, Bartos I, Akay T, Márka S, Mann RS. Quantification of gait parameters in freely walking wild type and sensory deprived Drosophila melanogaster. Elife. 2013 Jan 8;2:e00231. doi: 10.7554/eLife.00231. Erratum in: Elife. 2013 Feb 11;2:e00565. PubMed PMID: 23326642; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3545443.