JOURNAL ARTICLE

Glutamate is an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the Drosophila olfactory system

Wendy W Liu, Rachel I Wilson
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2013 June 18, 110 (25): 10294-9
23729809
Glutamatergic neurons are abundant in the Drosophila central nervous system, but their physiological effects are largely unknown. In this study, we investigated the effects of glutamate in the Drosophila antennal lobe, the first relay in the olfactory system and a model circuit for understanding olfactory processing. In the antennal lobe, one-third of local neurons are glutamatergic. Using in vivo whole-cell patch clamp recordings, we found that many glutamatergic local neurons are broadly tuned to odors. Iontophoresed glutamate hyperpolarizes all major cell types in the antennal lobe, and this effect is blocked by picrotoxin or by transgenic RNAi-mediated knockdown of the GluClα gene, which encodes a glutamate-gated chloride channel. Moreover, antennal lobe neurons are inhibited by selective activation of glutamatergic local neurons using a nonnative genetically encoded cation channel. Finally, transgenic knockdown of GluClα in principal neurons disinhibits the odor responses of these neurons. Thus, glutamate acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the antennal lobe, broadly similar to the role of GABA in this circuit. However, because glutamate release is concentrated between glomeruli, whereas GABA release is concentrated within glomeruli, these neurotransmitters may act on different spatial and temporal scales. Thus, the existence of two parallel inhibitory transmitter systems may increase the range and flexibility of synaptic inhibition.

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