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Functional and ultrastructural analysis of reafferent mechanosensation in larval zebrafish.

Curr Biol. 2021 Nov 17:S0960-9822(21)01530-X. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2021.11.007. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34822765.

Authors/Editors: Odstrcil I, Petkova MD, Haesemeyer M, Boulanger-Weill J, Nikitchenko M, Gagnon JA, Oteiza P, Schalek R, Peleg A, Portugues R, Lichtman JW, Engert F.
Publication Date: 2021


All animals need to differentiate between exafferent stimuli, which are caused by the environment, and reafferent stimuli, which are caused by their own movement. In the case of mechanosensation in aquatic animals, the exafferent inputs are water vibrations in the animal’s proximity, which need to be distinguishable from the reafferent inputs arising from fluid drag due to locomotion. Both of these inputs are detected by the lateral line, a collection of mechanosensory organs distributed along the surface of the body. In this study, we characterize in detail how hair cells—the receptor cells of the lateral line—in zebrafish larvae discriminate between such reafferent and exafferent signals. Using dye labeling of the lateral line nerve, we visualize two parallel descending inputs that can influence lateral line sensitivity. We combine functional imaging with ultra-structural EM circuit reconstruction to show that cholinergic signals originating from the hindbrain transmit efference copies (copies of the motor command that cancel out self-generated reafferent stimulation during locomotion) and that dopaminergic signals from the hypothalamus may have a role in threshold modulation, both in response to locomotion and salient stimuli. We further gain direct mechanistic insight into the core components of this circuit by loss-of-function perturbations using targeted ablations and gene knockouts. We propose that this simple circuit is the core implementation of mechanosensory reafferent suppression in these young animals and that it might form the first instantiation of state-dependent modulation found at later stages in development.

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