Ecology, Evolution & Ethology Gene Expression Genetics & Genomics Imaging Model Organisms Neurosciences
A 2023 Crick PhD project with Lucia Prieto-Godino
Project background and description
Our lab is interested in understanding the function and evolution of neural circuits. We use as models the larval and adult stages of diverse Drosophila species, integrating a suite of advanced neuroscience methods such as cross-species comparative connectomics, volumetric imaging, electrophysiology, single-cell transcriptomics, computational modelling, behavioural analysis and genetic manipulation. This enables us to uncover patterns of neural circuit evolution and to move beyond correlation to understand the genetic bases of circuit changes, and their role in behavioural evolution.
We and others have previously shown that olfactory guided behaviours can evolve through changes in the periphery, at the level of olfactory sensory neurons [1-3]. In addition, behavioural diversity can evolve through modification in how sensory information is processed in the brain, but we know much less about how this happens. In the lab we have found that evolutionary relatives of the lab model D. melanogaster display species-specific behaviours towards odour sources. This is associated with changes their olfactory sensory neuron ensemble, and how these represent the chemical environment. Furthermore, by performing comparative connectomics between two Drosophila species with divergent odour-guided behaviours, we have found differences in how their central olfactory processing neurons are interconnected. This now gives us the perfect model system to understand how these connectivity changes contribute to behavioural differences, and what are the genetic changes that enable these connectivity changes during evolution. The PhD project will be shaped together with the student to fit their interest within this larger framework, with opportunities for connectomic, imaging, behavioural, molecular and genetic manipulation work.
Applicants should be curious about how neural circuits evolve. A background in neuroscience or molecular biology, as well as skills in bioinformatics or computational approaches would be useful, but ample opportunities for training will be provided.
1. Prieto-Godino, L.L., Rytz, R., Cruchet, S., Bargeton, B., Abuin, L., Silbering, A.F., Ruta, V., Dal Peraro, M., and Benton, R. (2017)
Evolution of acid-sensing olfactory circuits in drosophilids.
Neuron 93.3: 661-676.e6. PubMed abstract
2. Prieto-Godino, L.L., Rytz, R., Bargeton, B., Abuin, L., Arguello, J.R., Dal Peraro, M., and Benton, R. (2016)
Olfactory receptor pseudo-pseudogenes.
Nature 539: 93-97. PubMed abstract
3. Pop, S., Bonnal, S., Almudi, I., Roberts, R.J.V., Paolantoni, C., Alcaina, A., Avola, A., Martin Anduaga, A., Haussmann, I.H., Morin, V., Soller, M., Kadener, S., Roignant, J.Y., Prieto-Godino, L.L., and Irimia, M. (2022)
Parallel Evolution of a splicing program controlling neuronal excitability in flies and mammals.
Science Advances 8.4 PubMed abstract
4. Prieto-Godino, L.L., Schmidt, H.R., and Benton R. (2021)
Molecular reconstruction of recurrent evolutionary switching in olfactory receptor specificity.
eLife 10:e69732 PubMed abstract