Sequential acquisition of cacophony calcium currents, sodium channels and voltage-dependent potassium currents affects spike shape and dendrite growth during postembryonic maturation of an identified Drosophila motoneuron



During metamorphosis the CNS undergoes profound changes to accommodate the switch from larval to adult behaviors. In Drosophila and other holometabolous insects, adult neurons differentiate either from respecified larval neurons, newly born neurons, or are born embryonically but remain developmentally arrested until differentiation during pupal life. This study addresses the latter in the identified Drosophila flight motoneuron 5. In situ patch-clamp recordings, intracellular dye fills and immunocytochemistry address the interplay between dendritic shape, excitability and ionic current development. During pupal life, changes in excitability and spike shape correspond to a stereotyped, progressive appearance of voltage-gated ion channels. High-voltage-activated calcium current is the first current to appear at pupal stage P4, prior to the onset of dendrite growth. This is followed by voltage-gated sodium as well as transient potassium channel expression, when first dendrites grow, and sodium-dependent action potentials can be evoked by somatic current injection. Sustained potassium current appears later than transient potassium current. During the early stages of rapid dendritic growth, sodium-dependent action potentials are broadened by a calcium component. Narrowing of spike shape coincides with sequential increases in transient and sustained potassium currents during stages when dendritic growth ceases. Targeted RNAi knockdown of pupal calcium current significantly reduces dendritic growth. These data indicate that the stereotyped sequential acquisition of different voltage-gated ion channels affects spike shape and excitability such that activity-dependent calcium influx serves as a partner of genetic programs during critical stages of motoneuron dendrite growth.