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A pair of commissural command neurons induces Drosophila wing grooming.


In many behaviors such walking and swimming, animals need to coordinate their left and right limbs. In Drosophila, wing grooming can be induced by activation of sensory organs called campaniform sensilla. Flies usually clean one wing at a time, coordinating their left and right hind legs to sweep the dorsal and ventral surfaces of the wing. Here, we identify a pair of interneurons located in the ventral nerve cord that we name wing projection neurons 1 (wPN1) whose optogenetic activation induces wing grooming. Inhibition of wPN1 activity reduces wing grooming. They receive synaptic input from ipsilateral wing campaniform sensilla and wing mechanosensory bristle neurons, and they extend axonal arbors to the hind leg neuropils. Although they project contralaterally, their activation induces ipsilateral wing grooming. Anatomical and behavioral data support a role for wPN1 as command neurons coordinating both hind legs to work together to clean the stimulated wing.

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