Wasserman SM, Aptekar JW, Lu P, Nguyen J, Wang AL, Keles MF, Grygoruk A, Krantz DE, Larsen C, Frye MA (2015) Olfactory neuromodulation of motion vision circuitry in Drosophila. Curr Biol 25: 467-72

It is well established that perception is largely multisensory; often served by modalities such as touch, vision, and hearing that detect stimuli emanating from a common point in space; and processed by brain tissue maps that are spatially aligned. However, the neural interactions among modalities that share no spatial stimulus domain yet are essential for robust perception within noisy environments remain uncharacterized. Drosophila melanogaster makes its living navigating food odor plumes. Odor acts to increase the strength of gaze-stabilizing optomotor reflexes to keep the animal aligned within an invisible plume, facilitating odor localization in free flight. Here, we investigate the cellular mechanism for cross-modal behavioral interactions. We characterize a wide-field motion-selective interneuron of the lobula plate that shares anatomical and physiological similarities with the "Hx" neuron identified in larger flies. Drosophila Hx exhibits cross-modal enhancement of visual responses by paired odor, and presynaptic inputs to the lobula plate are required for behavioral odor tracking but are not themselves the target of odor modulation, nor is the neighboring wide-field "HSE" neuron. Octopaminergic neurons mediating increased visual responses upon flight initiation also show odor-evoked calcium modulations and form connections with Hx dendrites. Finally, restoring synaptic vesicle trafficking within the octopaminergic neurons of animals carrying a null mutation for all aminergic signaling is sufficient to restore odor-tracking behavior. These results are the first to demonstrate cellular mechanisms underlying visual-olfactory integration required for odor localization in fruit flies, which may be representative of adaptive multisensory interactions across taxa.

Pubmed: 25619767