Understanding neuronal representations of odor-evoked activities and their progressive transformation from the sensory level to higher brain centers features one of the major aims in olfactory neuroscience. Here, we investigated how odor information is transformed and represented in higher-order neurons of the lateral horn, one of the higher olfactory centers implicated in determining innate behavior, using Drosophila melanogaster. We focused on a subset of third-order glutamatergic lateral horn neurons (LHNs) and characterized their odor coding properties in relation to their presynaptic partner neurons, the projection neurons (PNs) by two-photon functional imaging. We show that odors evoke reproducible, stereotypic, and odor-specific response patterns in LHNs. Notably, odor-evoked responses in these neurons are valence-specific in a way that their response amplitude is positively correlated with innate odor preferences. We postulate that this valence-specific activity is the result of integrating inputs from multiple olfactory channels through second-order neurons. GRASP and micro-lesioning experiments provide evidence that glutamatergic LHNs obtain their major excitatory input from uniglomerular PNs, while they receive an odor-specific inhibition through inhibitory multiglomerular PNs. In summary, our study indicates that odor representations in glutamatergic LHNs encode hedonic valence and odor identity and primarily retain the odor coding properties of second-order neurons.
Sudeshna Das Chakraborty, Hetan Chang, Bill S Hansson, Silke Sachse (2022) Higher-order olfactory neurons in the lateral horn support odor valence and odor identity coding in Drosophila eLife 11:e74637. Read the publication here.