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Conserved Neural Circuit Structure Across Drosophila Larval Development Revealed By Comparative Connectomics

By Stephan Gerhard, Ingrid Andrade, Richard D Fetter, Albert Cardona, Casey M. Schneider-Mizell

Posted 30 May 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/143727 (published DOI: 10.7554/eLife.29089)

Throughout an animal's postembryonic development, neuronal circuits must maintain appropriate output even as the body grows. The contribution of structural adaptation --- neuronal morphology and synaptic connectivity --- to circuit development remains unclear. In a previous paper (Schneider-Mizell et al., 2016), we measured the detailed neuronal morphological structures subserving neuronal connectivity in Drosophila. Here, we examine how neuronal morphology and connectivity change across postembyronic development. Using new and existing serial section electron microscopy volumes, we reconstructed an identified nociceptive circuit in two larvae, one 1st instar and one 3rd instar. We found extremely consistent, topographically-arranged circuit structure. Five-fold increases in size of interneurons were associated with compensatory structural changes that maintained cell-type-specific synaptic input as a fraction of total inputs. An increase in number of synaptic contacts was accompanied with a disproportionate increase in the number of small dendritic terminal branches relative to other neuronal compartments. We propose that these precise patterns of structural growth act to conserve the computational function of a circuit, for example determining the location of a nociceptive stimulus.

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