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Keywords:

  • mushroom body calyx;
  • microglomerulus;
  • Kenyon cell;
  • projection neuron;
  • extrinsic neuron;
  • ribbon synapse;
  • dendrite

Abstract

To investigate how sensory information is processed, transformed, and stored within an olfactory system, we examined the anatomy of the input region, the calyx, of the mushroom bodies of Drosophila melanogaster. These paired structures are important for various behaviors, including olfactory learning and memory. Cells in the input neuropil, the calyx, are organized into an array of microglomeruli each comprising the large synaptic bouton of a projection neuron (PN) from the antennal lobe surrounded by tiny postsynaptic neurites from intrinsic Kenyon cells. Extrinsic neurons of the mushroom body also contribute to the organization of microglomeruli. We employed a combination of genetic reporters to identify single cells in the Drosophila calyx by light microscopy and compared these with cell shapes, synapses, and circuits derived from serial-section electron microscopy. We identified three morphological types of PN boutons, unilobed, clustered, and elongated; defined three ultrastructural types, with clear- or dense-core vesicles and those with a dark cytoplasm having both; reconstructed diverse dendritic specializations of Kenyon cells; and identified Kenyon cell presynaptic sites upon extrinsic neurons. We also report new features of calyx synaptic organization, in particular extensive serial synapses that link calycal extrinsic neurons into a local network, and the numerical proportions of synaptic contacts between calycal neurons. All PN bouton types had more ribbon than nonribbon synapses, dark boutons particularly so, and ribbon synapses were larger and with more postsynaptic elements (2–14) than nonribbon (1–10). The numbers of elements were in direct proportion to presynaptic membrane area. Extrinsic neurons exclusively had ribbon synapses. J. Comp. Neurol. 520:2185–2201, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.