MicroRNAs regulate multiple aspects of locomotor behavior in Drosophila

Nathan C. Donelson, Richa Dixit, Israel Pichardo-Casas, Eva Y. Chiu, Robert T. Ohman, Justin B. Slawson, Mason Klein, Tudor A. Fulga, David Van Vactor, Leslie C. Griffith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Locomotion is an ancient and fundamental output of the nervous system required for animals to perform many other complex behaviors. Although the formation of motor circuits is known to be under developmental control of transcriptional mechanisms that define the fates and connectivity of the many neurons, glia and muscle constituents of these circuits, relatively little is known about the role of posttranscriptional regulation of locomotor behavior. MicroRNAs have emerged as a potentially rich source of modulators for neural development and function. In order to define the microRNAs required for normal locomotion in Drosophila melanogaster, we utilized a set of transgenic Gal4-dependent competitive inhibitors (microRNA sponges, or miR-SPs) to functionally assess ca. 140 high-confidence Drosophila microRNAs using automated quantitative movement tracking systems followed by multiparametric analysis. Using ubiquitous expression of miR-SP constructs, we identified a large number of microRNAs that modulate aspects of normal baseline adult locomotion. Addition of temperature-dependent Gal80 to identify microRNAs that act during adulthood revealed that the majority of these microRNAs play developmental roles. Comparison of ubiquitous and neural-specific miR-SP expression suggests that most of these microRNAs function within the nervous system. Parallel analyses of spontaneous locomotion in adults and in larvae also reveal that very few of the microRNAs required in the adult overlap with those that control the behavior of larval motor circuits. These screens suggest that a rich regulatory landscape underlies the formation and function of motor circuits and that many of these mechanisms are stage and/or parameter-specific.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-55
Number of pages13
JournalG3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Motor behavior
  • microRNA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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