PNAS, 22 February, 2019, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1812342116
Suppression of GABAergic neurons through D2-like receptor secures efficient conditioning in Drosophila aversive olfactory learning
Mingmin Zhou, Nannan Chen, Jingsong Tian, Jianzhi Zeng, Yunpeng Zhang, Xiaofan Zhang, Jing Guo, Jinghan Sun, Yulong Li, Aike Guo, and Yan Li
The GABAergic system serves as a vital negative modulator in cognitive functions, such as learning and memory, while the mechanisms governing this inhibitory system remain to be elucidated. In Drosophila, the GABAergic anterior paired lateral (APL) neurons mediate a negative feedback essential for odor discrimination; however, their activity is suppressed by learning via unknown mechanisms. In aversive olfactory learning, a group of dopaminergic (DA) neurons is activated on electric shock (ES) and modulates the Kenyon cells (KCs) in the mushroom body, the center of olfactory learning. Here we find that the same group of DA neurons also form functional synaptic connections with the APL neurons, thereby emitting a suppressive signal to the latter through Drosophila dopamine 2-like receptor (DD2R). Knockdown of either DD2R or its downstream molecules in the APL neurons results in impaired olfactory learning at the behavioral level. Results obtained from in vivo functional imaging experiments indicate that this DD2R-dependent DA-to-APL suppression occurs during odor-ES conditioning and discharges the GABAergic inhibition on the KCs specific to the conditioned odor. Moreover, the decrease in odor response of the APL neurons persists to the postconditioning phase, and this change is also absent in DD2R knockdown flies. Taken together, our findings show that DA-to-GABA suppression is essential for restraining the GABAergic inhibition during conditioning, as well as for inducing synaptic modification in this learning circuit. Such circuit mechanisms may play conserved roles in associative learning across species.