COLD SPRING HARBOR, N.Y. (Thurs., July 1, 2010) -- Since the early days of the 20th century and Thomas Hunt Morgan's famous "Fly Room" at Columbia University, the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster has been at the forefront of biological research. The powerful arsenal of experimental methods developed for this model organism is now being used to tackle one of the great scientific challenges of a new century: understanding the nervous system. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory's Neurobiology of Drosophila course (http://meetings.cshl.edu/courses/c-dros10.shtml) has served as the training ground for a generation of scientists tackling these complex problems. A new laboratory manual based on the protocols and background information taught in the course promises to spread these techniques to a wider audience. Two of the methods from the manual are featured in the July issue of the journal Cold Spring Harbor Protocols.
When a fly is confronted with danger, it jumps into the air and flies away. The giant fiber system (GFS) of Drosophila is a neuronal circuit that mediates this escape response. The neurons in the GFS are readily identified and easily accessible for experimental assay. "Electrophysiological Recordings from the Drosophila Giant Fiber System," from Marcus Allen and Tanja Godenschwege, describes a simple procedure for stimulating neurons directly in the brain of the adult fly and obtaining recordings from the output muscles of the GFS. The protocol is freely available on the journal's website .
The larval Drosophila brain has been a valuable model for investigating the role of stem cells in development. These neural stem cells, called "neuroblasts," have provided insight into the role of cell polarity in influencing cell fate. Identifying neuroblasts and their progeny requires a method capable of recognizing cell polarity and cell fate markers. "Immunofluorescent Staining of Drosophila Larval Brain Tissue," provided by Cheng-Yu Lee and colleagues, describes procedures for the collection and processing of Drosophila larval brains for analysis of these markers. Neuroblasts are identified via immunolocalization, the use of labeled antibodies that specifically bind the marker proteins of interest. The article is featured in the July issue of Cold Spring Harbor Protocols and is freely available on the journal's website.