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Keywords:

  • CO2 laser;
  • Drosophila;
  • hot plate;
  • jump response;
  • mushroom body;
  • nociception;
  • painless

Nociception, warning of injury that should be avoided, serves an important protective function in animals. In this study, we show that adult Drosophila avoids noxious heat by a jump response. To quantitatively analyze this nociceptive behavior, we developed two assays. In the CO2 laser beam assay, flies exhibit this behavior when a laser beam heats their abdomens. The consistency of the jump latency in this assay meets an important criterion for a good nociceptive assay. In the hot plate assay, flies jump quickly to escape from a hot copper plate (>45 °C). Our results demonstrate that, as in mammals, the latency of the jump response is inversely related to stimulus intensity, and innoxious thermosensation does not elicit this nociceptive behavior. To explore the genetic mechanisms of nociception, we examined several mutants in both assays. Abnormal nociceptive behavior of a mutant, painless1, indicates that painless, a gene essential for nociception in Drosophila larvae, is also required for thermal nociception in adult flies. painless is expressed in certain neurons of the peripheral nervous system and thoracic ganglia, as well as in the definite brain structures, the mushroom bodies. However, chemical or genetic insults to the mushroom bodies do not influence the nociceptive behavior, suggesting that different painless-expressing neurons play diverse roles in thermal nociception. Additionally, no-bridgeKS49, a mutant that has a structural defect in the protocerebral bridge, shows defective response to noxious heat. Thus, our results validate adult Drosophila as a useful model to study the genetic mechanisms of thermal nociception.