Evolution of Molecular Substrates for Neuronal Wiring
Animals exhibit a wide array of natural behaviors, yet the connection between these ethological adaptations and the underlying evolutionary changes of the neuronal systems controlling them remains largely unknown. Characterizing these adaptive processes is fundamental for gaining a comprehensive understanding of neuronal computations, their function, and the broader landscape of evolution. In this presentation, I will provide insights into my ongoing research aimed at unraveling these adaptive processes, with a focus on the well-defined and accessible Drosophila's motion vision circuitry. To bridge the gap between the molecular blueprint that defines neural circuitry and the innate behaviors exhibited across species, I'm employing a comprehensive bottom-up approach that encompasses spatial proteomics, phylogenetic reconstructions, and high-throughput behavioral analysis. My results show that neuron-specific surface proteomes are highly enriched in cell adhesion molecules that can exhibit both, highly conserved and extremely divergent phylogenetic profiles, indicating species-specific adaptations. Notably, when integrating these proteomic datasets with single-cell RNA-sequencing and the fly brain connectome, we unveil synapse-specific molecular interactions that serve as the foundation for circuit-level functional experiments. Currently, I am developing tools to validate these candidate wiring interactions, both at the anatomical and behavioral levels. These efforts will advance our understanding of the intricate relationship between neural circuits and the adaptive processes that shape species behaviors.