Open Access Research article

Exploratory behaviour in NO-dependent cyclase mutants of Drosophila shows defects in coincident neuronal signalling

Sylvette Tinette1, Lixing Zhang1, Amélie Garnier1, Gilbert Engler2, Sophie Tares2 and Alain Robichon12*

Author Affiliations

1 Université de Bourgogne 15 rue Hughes Picardet Dijon 21000 France CESG/CNRS France

2 Université de Nice Sophia Antipolis, 400 routes des Chappes 06903 Sophia Antipolis INRA/CNRS France

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BMC Neuroscience 2007, 8:65  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-8-65

Published: 6 August 2007



Drosophila flies explore the environment very efficiently in order to colonize it. They explore collectively, not individually, so that when a few land on a food spot, they attract the others by signs. This behaviour leads to aggregation of individuals and optimizes the screening of mates and egg-laying on the most favourable food spots.


Flies perform cycles of exploration/aggregation depending on the resources of the environment. This behavioural ecology constitutes an excellent model for analyzing simultaneous processing of neurosensory information. We reasoned that the decision of flies to land somewhere in order to achieve aggregation is based on simultaneous integration of signals (visual, olfactory, acoustic) during their flight. On the basis of what flies do in nature, we designed laboratory tests to analyze the phenomenon of neuronal coincidence. We screened many mutants of genes involved in neuronal metabolism and the synaptic machinery.


Mutants of NO-dependent cyclase show a specifically-marked behaviour phenotype, but on the other hand they are associated with moderate biochemical defects. We show that these mutants present errors in integrative and/or coincident processing of signals, which are not reducible to the functions of the peripheral sensory cells.