The Secret to Being Clean

Neil Zhang (Graduate Student), Li Guo (Graduate Student)
Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology


Fruit flies work hard to stay clean. Dust is sensed by bristles, which control sensory neurons (green) to transfer information to the brain. Flies follow an anterior-to-posterior cleaning sequence when covered with dust. We use grooming to investigate how animals sequentially execute motor programs.     

We identified a transgenic fly line that targets all 1200 eye bristle neurons. We used this line to activate or inhibit these bristle neurons and demonstrate their role in grooming behavior. Here, we express green fluorescent protein in eye bristle neurons and use confocal microscopy to trace the projections of the eye bristle neurons from the compound eye into the brain; this is shown on the left. The rest of head was imaged by a scanning electron microscope (SEM), which shows the morphology of cuticle and bristles. This is a good example of how different imaging techniques reveal different aspects of a sample. The SEM imaging was performed in MEIAF with the help of Sage Davis under NSF Awards BES-9977772 and DBI-0216480. Studies in the Simpson Lab is supported by NIH R01 NS110866.