Genes that are transcribed in response to neuronal activity, named immediate early genes (IEGs), comprise members that are involved in important biological processes such as synaptic plasticity, learning and memory, and oncogenesis. A few genes have been identified as IEGs in mammals, but very little is known about IEGs in insects such as Drosophila melanogaster, which is used as a model to study these biological process. Furthermore, little is understood about genes that are downregulated by neuronal activity. We propose to undertake a genome-wide transcriptome analysis to identify genes that are both up-regulated and down- regulated in response to sensory neuron activity in three species of insects including Drosophila melanogaster, Drosophila pseudoobscura and the malaria vector Anopheles gambiae. By performing this analysis for three different species, we will be able to identify candidate IEGs for each species, as well as identify evolutionarily conserved IEGs that are regulated similarly across the three species. We propose to validate the identified candidate IEGs using a well-established quantitative RT-PCR.approach. Finally, we propose to map specificity of activity-induced transcription of IEGs to appropriate neurons using two alternative strategies, RNA in situ analysis and transgenic IEG-promoter analysis. For the transgenic strategy we propose to identify candidate regulatory regions of IEGs and test these promoter sequences in transgenic flies to determine whether they can drive reporter gene expression in response to neuronal activity. Successful completion of the proposed studies will provide a genome-wide catalog of genes that are regulated in an activity-dependent fashion in Drosophila and Anopheles. A successful method to transcriptionally report neuronal activity in vivo in insects would be a tremendous advance and could be applicable for the investigation of complex neurobiological problems including higher order processing of chemosensory information, chemsosensory coding, sensory integration and memory formation.

Public Health Relevance

We propose to identify evolutionarily conserved genes that are regulated by activation of neurons in Drosophila and Anopheles using a genome-wide approach. In mammals activity-regulated genes have been associated with a number of important physiological processes such as nervous system function and cancer biology, and the ability to study them in the model insect Drosophila melanogaster will shed light on the fundamental mechanisms of their regulation and function. The potential use of these genes and/or their DNA regulatory elements as tracers of nervous system activity will be invaluable in dissecting neural circuits that are involved in processing and integrating sensory information in Drosophila. Furthermore, in disease vectors such as Anopheles gambiae that use chemical cues to identify their hosts, an understanding of evolutionarily conserved genes that function in neural circuits that guide host-seeking behaviors may lead to novel strategies for insect control.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
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Molecular Neurogenetics Study Section (MNG)
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Riddle, Robert D
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University of California Riverside
Schools of Earth Sciences/Natur
United States
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