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Extensive and diverse patterns of cell death sculpt neural networks in insects

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Sinziana Pop, Chin-Lin Chen, Connor J Sproston, Shu Kondo, Pavan Ramdya, Darren W Williams

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere59566
Pages (from-to)1-31
Number of pages31
Early online date7 Sep 2020
E-pub ahead of print7 Sep 2020
PublishedSep 2020

Bibliographical note

© 2020, Pop et al.

King's Authors


Changes to the structure and function of neural networks are thought to underlie the evolutionary adaptation of animal behaviours. Among the many developmental phenomena that generate change programmed cell death (PCD) appears to play a key role. We show that cell death occurs continuously throughout insect neurogenesis and happens soon after neurons are born. Mimicking an evolutionary role for increasing cell numbers, we artificially block in the medial neuroblast lineage in Drosophila melanogaster, which results in the production of ‘undead’ neurons with complex arborisations and distinct neurotransmitter identities. Activation of these ‘undead’ neurons and recordings of neural activity in behaving animals demonstrate that they are functional. Focusing on two dipterans, which have lost flight during evolution, we reveal that reductions in populations of flight interneurons are likely caused by increased cell death during development. Our findings suggest that the evolutionary modulation of death-based patterning could generate novel network configurations.

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