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Neuroendocrine Control of Drosophila Larval Light Preference

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Science  06 Sep 2013:
Vol. 341, Issue 6150, pp. 1113-1116
DOI: 10.1126/science.1241210

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Looking for the Dark

Mature Drosophila larvae wander away from food and seek a dark site for pupation. While investigating this phenomenon Yamanaka et al. (p. 1113) found that four prothoracicotropic hormone (PTTH)–producing neurons mediate light preference in the central brain. PTTH circulates in the hemolymph and signals via its receptor, Torso, to two light sensors, sensitizing them for light detection. The larvae can then transform from wandering larvae into immobile pupae hidden from light and predatory eyes.

Abstract

Animal development is coupled with innate behaviors that maximize chances of survival. Here, we show that the prothoracicotropic hormone (PTTH), a neuropeptide that controls the developmental transition from juvenile stage to sexual maturation, also regulates light avoidance in Drosophila melanogaster larvae. PTTH, through its receptor Torso, acts on two light sensors—the Bolwig’s organ and the peripheral class IV dendritic arborization neurons—to regulate light avoidance. We found that PTTH concomitantly promotes steroidogenesis and light avoidance at the end of larval stage, driving animals toward a darker environment to initiate the immobile maturation phase. Thus, PTTH controls the decisions of when and where animals undergo metamorphosis, optimizing conditions for adult development.

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