A toolbox for light control of Drosophila behaviors through Channelrhodopsin 2-mediated photoactivation of targeted neurons

Wei Zhang, Wooping Ge, Zuoren Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

75 Scopus citations


In order to study the function of specific neural circuits, we generated UAS-Channelrhodopsin2 (ChR2) transgenic Drosophila and established a ChR2-based system that enables specific activation of targeted neurons in larval and adult fruit flies with blue light illumination, under the control of a newly designed light source that provides fully programmable stimulation patterns. We showed that stimulating selectively the nociceptor of larvae expressing ChR2 elicited light-induced 'pain' response, confined freely behaving larvae in defined area and directed larva migration along a preset route. In freely behaving adult flies, rapid photoactivation of targeted gustatory sensory neurons, dopaminergic modulatory neurons and motor neurons triggered the proboscis extension response, escaping reflex and changes in the locomotion pattern, respectively, with precise temporal control. This non-invasive method for remote control of animal behaviors also provides a potential tool for conducting 'gain of function' studies toward understanding how animal behaviors are controlled by neural activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2405-2416
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number9
StatePublished - Nov 1 2007



  • Dopaminergic neuron
  • Giant
  • Gustatory neuron
  • Nociception
  • Painless

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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