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Papers of the Week

Papers: 20 Apr 2024 - 26 Apr 2024

2024 Apr 25

PLoS Genet




Dendrite intercalation between epidermal cells tunes nociceptor sensitivity to mechanical stimuli in Drosophila larvae.


Luedke KP, Yoshino J, Yin C, Jiang N, Huang JM, Huynh K, Parrish JZ


An animal’s skin provides a first point of contact with the sensory environment, including noxious cues that elicit protective behavioral responses. Nociceptive somatosensory neurons densely innervate and intimately interact with epidermal cells to receive these cues, however the mechanisms by which epidermal interactions shape processing of noxious inputs is still poorly understood. Here, we identify a role for dendrite intercalation between epidermal cells in tuning sensitivity of Drosophila larvae to noxious mechanical stimuli. In wild-type larvae, dendrites of nociceptive class IV da neurons intercalate between epidermal cells at apodemes, which function as body wall muscle attachment sites, but not at other sites in the epidermis. From a genetic screen we identified miR-14 as a regulator of dendrite positioning in the epidermis: miR-14 is expressed broadly in the epidermis but not in apodemes, and miR-14 inactivation leads to excessive apical dendrite intercalation between epidermal cells. We found that miR-14 regulates expression and distribution of the epidermal Innexins ogre and Inx2 and that these epidermal gap junction proteins restrict epidermal dendrite intercalation. Finally, we found that altering the extent of epidermal dendrite intercalation had corresponding effects on nociception: increasing epidermal intercalation sensitized larvae to noxious mechanical inputs and increased mechanically evoked calcium responses in nociceptive neurons, whereas reducing epidermal dendrite intercalation had the opposite effects. Altogether, these studies identify epidermal dendrite intercalation as a mechanism for mechanical coupling of nociceptive neurons to the epidermis, with nociceptive sensitivity tuned by the extent of intercalation.