|dc.description.abstracteng||Learning and memory is a prerequisite for the survival and the appropriate adaptation of behavioral responses in an ever-changing environment. Memories are formed, stored, and retrieved in the brains of animals. The formation of memories leaves traces in the brain, which are formed due to anatomic, physiological, and synaptic alterations in neuronal substrates. Forming and memorizing associations with different stimuli will allow the animal to predict rewarding or punishing conditions in the future. For the detection of environmental stimuli, such as food sources, mates, or harmful substances, olfaction is a commonly used sense. The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster performs well in olfactory associative learning, assigning valances to former neutral stimuli. This learning performance was attributed to the mushroom bodies, a specialized higher association center in the fly’s brain, and also of other arthropods. The mushroom bodies receive heavy olfactory, as well as dopaminergic input, of which the latter conveys mainly aversive and appetitive valence, respectively. The coincidence of odor-induced activation in the mushroom body intrinsic Kenyon cells and the reward- or punishment-induced dopamine release onto these Kenyon cells, is believed to change synaptic plasticity in the mushroom body circuit, leading to the association of both. As higher order brain centers often encode sensory inputs as sparse ensembles of active neurons, which further have a multitude of synapses, it is very challenging to detect memory traces in the brain. Some memory traces were detected in the mushroom body related circuit. However, the synaptic plasticity underlying associative olfactory learning was so far not described for Kenyon cells. Kenyon cells can be subdivided into three main types, which were shown to have certain roles in associative learning and memory. The γ-type Kenyon cells are mainly involved in short term memory and important for memory acquisition in general.
In the present study, calcium imaging was employed in single γ-Kenyon cells, to measure odor-evoked calcium transients in single synapses, before and shortly after an olfactory aversive associative conditioning. Calcium imaging at the single cell level was accomplished by using mosaic analysis with a repressible cell marker. Single axonal boutons could be identified and monitored in a compartment-specific manner, to analyze synaptic plasticity. The aversive associative conditioning was performed under a 2-photon microscope. After the calcium imaging procedure, flies were subjected to an immunohistochemical protocol to reconstruct single γ-Kenyon cells and assign the axonal boutons to their γ-lobe compartment.
In this study it was found, first, that γ-Kenyon cells show compartment-specific odor responses, indicating an expansion of the odor coding space, which is greater than earlier believed. Second, γ-Kenyon cell synapses de-synchronized in the course of aversive olfactory associative learning, for the odor that was paired with an electric shock. Although the net output of γ-Kenyon cells remained unchanged, synaptic de-synchronization within and across γ-Kenyon cells tagged stimulus relevant information to those cells. Furthermore, bouton response classes were found across all γ-lobe compartments, which were rearranged in the course of aversive olfactory associative learning. This rearrangement led to a reduced information output, potentially reducing input to downstream mushroom body output neurons. This form of synaptic de-synchronization was now described for the first time in invertebrate mushroom body neurons, showing an essential component of the memory trace left in the brain. Further studies have to show which molecular processes are underlying such a plasticity mechanism and if other Kenyon cell types exhibit similar mechanisms.||de