Image_1_Octopamine Shifts the Behavioral Response From Indecision to Approach or Aversion in Drosophila melanogaster.TIF
Animals must make constant decisions whether to respond to external sensory stimuli or not to respond. The activation of positive and/or negative reinforcers might bias the behavioral response towards approach or aversion. To analyze whether the activation of the octopaminergic neurotransmitter system can shift the decision between two identical odor sources, we active in Drosophila melanogaster different sets of octopaminergic neurons using optogenetics and analyze the choice of the flies using a binary odor trap assay. We show that the release of octopamine from a set of neurons and not acetylcholine acts as positive reinforcer for one food odor source resulting in attraction. The activation of a subset of these neurons causes the opposite behavior and results in aversion. This aversion is due to octopamine release and not tyramine, since in Tyramine-β-hydroxylase mutants (Tβh) lacking octopamine, the aversion is suppressed. We show that when given the choice between two different attractive food odor sources the activation of the octopaminergic neurotransmitter system switches the attraction for ethanol-containing food odor to a less attractive food odor. Consistent with the requirement for octopamine in biasing the behavioral outcome, Tβh mutants fail to switch their attraction. The execution of attraction does not require octopamine but rather initiation of the behavior or a switch of the behavioral response. The attraction to ethanol also depends on octopamine. Pharmacological increases in octopamine signaling in Tβh mutants increase ethanol attraction and blocking octopamine receptor function reduces ethanol attraction. Taken together, octopamine in the central brain orchestrates behavioral outcomes by biasing the decision of the animal towards food odors. This finding might uncover a basic principle of how octopamine gates behavioral outcomes in the brain.