Thermoresponsive motor behavior is mediated by ring neuron circuits in the central complex of Drosophila

Edgar Buhl*, Benjamin Kottler, James J L Hodge, Frank Hirth*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
63 Downloads (Pure)


Insects are ectothermal animals that are constrained in their survival and reproduction by external temperature fluctuations which require either active avoidance of or movement towards a given heat source. In Drosophila, different thermoreceptors and neurons have been identified that mediate temperature sensation to maintain the animal’s thermal preference. However, less is known how thermosensory information is integrated to gate thermoresponsive motor behavior. Here we use transsynaptic tracing together with calcium imaging, electrophysiology and thermogenetic manipulations in freely moving Drosophila exposed to elevated temperature and identify different functions of ellipsoid body ring neurons, R1-R4, in thermoresponsive motor behavior. Our results show that warming of the external surroundings elicits calcium influx specifically in R2-R4 but not in R1, which evokes threshold-dependent neural activity in the outer layer ring neurons. In contrast to R2, R3 and R4d neurons, thermogenetic inactivation of R4m and R1 neurons expressing the temperature-sensitive mutant allele of dynamin, shibireTS, results in impaired thermoresponsive motor behavior at elevated 31 °C. trans-Tango mediated transsynaptic tracing together with physiological and behavioral analyses indicate that integrated sensory information of warming is registered by neural activity of R4m as input layer of the ellipsoid body ring neuropil and relayed on to R1 output neurons that gate an adaptive motor response. Together these findings imply that segregated activities of central complex ring neurons mediate sensory-motor transformation of external temperature changes and gate thermoresponsive motor behavior in Drosophila.
Original languageEnglish
Article number155
Number of pages17
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jan 2021


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