Chantal Lee


The Role of TRP Channels in a Decision-Making Neural Circuit

All organisms rely on the effective integration of sensory signals to make optimal decisions. To dissect how sensory signals translate into an optimal decision, we focused on egg-laying, which is one of the most fundamental, environmentally-controlled behaviors of Drosophila melanogaster, and tested their preference for varying egg-laying substrate textures. Utilizing a choice assay that exposed female fruit flies to differing substrate densities, we noted that the flies had a strong preference for softer substrates. When the expression of several members of the TRP family of ion-channel proteins was eliminated, the flies were unable to discriminate between differing substrate hardness. It appears that the registration of optimal hardness for egg laying depends on more than one TRP protein. This finding highlights how multiple proteins may converge and integrate their functions to result in a single sensation, and therefore, cohesively affect decision making and behavior. Our ongoing work is focused on dissecting the roles of individual TRP proteins in the sensory and decision making process underlying oviposition choices. 

UC Santa Barbara Center for Science and Engineering Partnerships UCSB California NanoSystems Institute