MicroRNA-encoded behavior in Drosophila

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Science  22 Oct 2015:
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad0217

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The relationship between microRNA regulation and the specification of behavior is only beginning to be explored. Here we find that mutation of a single microRNA locus (miR-iab4/8) in Drosophila larvae affects the animal’s capacity to correct its orientation if turned upside-down (self-righting). One of the microRNA targets involved in this behavior is the Hox gene Ultrabithorax whose derepression in two metameric neurons leads to self-righting defects. In vivo neural activity analysis reveals that these neurons, the self-righting node (SRN), have different activity patterns in wild type and miRNA mutants while thermogenetic manipulation of SRN activity results in changes in self-righting behavior. Our work thus reveals a microRNA-encoded behavior and suggests that other microRNAs might also be involved in behavioral control in Drosophila and other species.

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