Drosophila Courtship Conditioning As a Measure of Learning and Memory
SourceJournal of Visualized Experiments, 124, (2017), article e55808
Article / Letter to editor
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Journal of Visualized Experiments
SubjectRadboudumc 0: Other Research RIHS: Radboud Institute for Health Sciences; Radboudumc 7: Neurodevelopmental disorders DCMN: Donders Center for Medical Neuroscience
Many insights into the molecular mechanisms underlying learning and memory have been elucidated through the use of simple behavioral assays in model organisms such as the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. Drosophila is useful for understanding the basic neurobiology underlying cognitive deficits resulting from mutations in genes associated with human cognitive disorders, such as intellectual disability (ID) and autism. This work describes a methodology for testing learning and memory using a classic paradigm in Drosophila known as courtship conditioning. Male flies court females using a distinct pattern of easily recognizable behaviors. Premated females are not receptive to mating and will reject the male's copulation attempts. In response to this rejection, male flies reduce their courtship behavior. This learned reduction in courtship behavior is measured over time, serving as an indicator of learning and memory. The basic numerical output of this assay is the courtship index (CI), which is defined as the percentage of time that a male spends courting during a 10 min interval. The learning index (LI) is the relative reduction of CI in flies that have been exposed to a premated female compared to naive flies with no previous social encounters. For the statistical comparison of LIs between genotypes, a randomization test with bootstrapping is used. To illustrate how the assay can be used to address the role of a gene relating to learning and memory, the pan-neuronal knockdown of Dihydroxyacetone phosphate acyltransferase (Dhap-at) was characterized here. The human ortholog of Dhap-at, glyceronephosphate O-acyltransferase (GNPT), is involved in rhizomelic chondrodysplasia punctata type 2, an autosomal-recessive syndrome characterized by severe ID. Using the courtship conditioning assay, it was determined that Dhap-at is required for long-term memory, but not for short-term memory. This result serves as a basis for further investigation of the underlying molecular mechanisms.
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