Drosophila Neurogenetics

Our aim is to get hold of the neural mechanisms and genetic basis sustaining chemosensory behavior in the model organism Drosophila melanogaster, and in closely related species living under different ecological conditions. We make use of powerful, genetically encoded tools to manipulate and monitor gene expression and neuronal function in the fly. We develop these tools mostly in the genetically amenable Drosophila melanogaster. Using new technology for genetically modifying organisms (CRISPR/Cas9) we are increasingly extending these state-of-the-arts tools to non-melanogaster species.

Genomic sequencing

By automated DNA sequencing we generate genomic sequence data of Drosophila species with diverse ecological niches. This information allows pinpointing novel genes and alleles to investigate their function and contribution to specific ecologically relevant olfactory behaviors.

Forward and reverse genetics

Our attempt is to connect a given genetic sequence with a specific olfactory behavior. By modifying genetic sequences (e.g.: mutations, deletions, RNAi) and/or the function of gene-expressing neurons (e.g.: optogenetics, temperature sensitive ion channels, synaptic disrupting proteins) we estimate their requirement through investigating the consequent effects (i.e.: phenotypes) on an otherwise wild type behavior of the fly. Complementarily, by ectopically expressing a given genetic sequence we evaluate its contribution to a specific olfactory function.

Fishing the unknown

Following an ecological motivation we focus on novel olfactory behaviors by exploring diverse Drosophila species. To gain a comprehensive understanding of the organization of the circuitry underlying these behaviors we screen their sustaining neuronal and genetic elements at cellular resolution. We make use of binary systems of expression (GAL4/UAS, lexA/lexAop, GAL80) to functionally isolate specific groups of cells and map their contribution into the circuits that govern Drosophila olfactory behavior.


Topics for master thesis

·         Generation of mutant flies for olfactory receptors sustaining aversion and attraction to specific odorants.

·         Genetic sequence analysis of pheromone receptors in Drosophila mojavensis.

·         Molecular evaluation of specific odorant receptors contribution to host adaptation.

·         Generation of transgenic flies expressing photoactivatable calcium fluorescent indicators.


Project Leader

  Dr. Sofia Lavista Llanos (Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina)
Phone: +49 (0)3641 57 1465


  Dr. Stefan Pentzold
Phone: +49 (0)3641 57 1267


Carolin Hoyer
Phone: +49 (0)3641 57 1428