MDN brain descending neurons coordinately activate backward and inhibit forward locomotion. Academic Article uri icon


  • Command-like descending neurons can induce many behaviors, such as backward locomotion, escape, feeding, courtship, egg-laying, or grooming (we define 'command-like neuron' as a neuron whose activation elicits or 'commands' a specific behavior). In most animals, it remains unknown how neural circuits switch between antagonistic behaviors: via top-down activation/inhibition of antagonistic circuits or via reciprocal inhibition between antagonistic circuits. Here, we use genetic screens, intersectional genetics, circuit reconstruction by electron microscopy, and functional optogenetics to identify a bilateral pair of Drosophila larval 'mooncrawler descending neurons' (MDNs) with command-like ability to coordinately induce backward locomotion and block forward locomotion; the former by stimulating a backward-active premotor neuron, and the latter by disynaptic inhibition of a forward-specific premotor neuron. In contrast, direct monosynaptic reciprocal inhibition between forward and backward circuits was not observed. Thus, MDNs coordinate a transition between antagonistic larval locomotor behaviors. Interestingly, larval MDNs persist into adulthood, where they can trigger backward walking. Thus, MDNs induce backward locomotion in both limbless and limbed animals.

published proceedings

  • Elife

altmetric score

  • 72.15

author list (cited authors)

  • Carreira-Rosario, A., Zarin, A. A., Clark, M. Q., Manning, L., Fetter, R. D., Cardona, A., & Doe, C. Q.

citation count

  • 64

complete list of authors

  • Carreira-Rosario, Arnaldo||Zarin, Aref Arzan||Clark, Matthew Q||Manning, Laurina||Fetter, Richard D||Cardona, Albert||Doe, Chris Q

publication date

  • August 2018


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