High-content behavioral profiling reveals neuronal genetic network modulating Drosophila larval locomotor program
Abstract Background Two key questions in understanding the genetic control of behaviors are: what genes are involved and how these genes interact. To answer these questions at a systems level, we conducted high-content profiling of Drosophila larval locomotor behaviors for over 100 genotypes. Results We studied 69 genes whose C. elegans orthologs were neuronal signalling genes with significant locomotor phenotypes, and conducted RNAi with ubiquitous, pan-neuronal, or motor-neuronal Gal4 drivers. Inactivation of 42 genes, including the nicotinic acetylcholine receptors nAChRα1 and nAChRα3, in the neurons caused significant movement defects. Bioinformatic analysis suggested 81 interactions among these genes based on phenotypic pattern similarities. Comparing the worm and fly data sets, we found that these genes were highly conserved in having neuronal expressions and locomotor phenotypes. However, the genetic interactions were not conserved for ubiquitous profiles, and may be mildly conserved for the neuronal profiles. Unexpectedly, our data also revealed a possible motor-neuronal control of body size, because inactivation of Rdl and Gαo in the motor neurons reduced the larval body size. Overall, these data established a framework for further exploring the genetic control of Drosophila larval locomotion. Conclusions High content, quantitative phenotyping of larval locomotor behaviours provides a framework for system-level understanding of the gene networks underlying such behaviours.