Response plasticity of Drosophila olfactory sensory neurons

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In insect olfaction, sensitization refers to the amplification of a weak olfactory signal when the stimulus is repeated within a specific time window. In the vinegar fly, Drosophila melanogaster , his occurs already at the periphery, at the level of olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) located in the antenna. In our study, we investigate whether sensitization is a widespread property in a set of seven types of OSNs, as well as the mechanisms involved. First, we characterize and compare differences in spontaneous activity, response velocity and response dynamics among the selected OSN types. These express different receptors with distinct tuning properties and behavioral relevance. Second, we show that sensitization is not a general property. Among our selected OSNs types, it occurs in those responding to more general food odors, while OSNs involved in very specific detection of highly specific ecological cues like pheromones and warning signals show no sensitization. Moreover, we show that mitochondria play an active role in sensitization by contributing to the increase in intracellular Ca 2+ upon weak receptor activation. Thus, by using a combination of single sensillum recordings (SSR), calcium imaging and pharmacology, we widen the understanding of how the olfactory signal is processed at the periphery.

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