The symbiotic relationship between an animal and its gut microbiota is known to influence host neural function and behavior. The mechanisms by which gut microbiota influence brain function are not well understood. This study measures the impact of gut microbiota on olfactory behavior of Drosophila larvae and explores possible mechanisms by which gut microbiota communicate with neural circuits. The microbiota load in Drosophila larvae was altered by treating them with antibiotics or probiotics. Control larvae and larvae with altered microbiota loads were subjected to olfactory assays to analyze the chemotaxis response of larvae to odorants. Larvae treated with antibiotics had reduced microbiota load and exhibited reduced chemotaxis response toward odorants compared to control animals. This behavioral phenotype was partially rescued in larvae treated with probiotics that resulted in partial recovery of microbiota loads. Expression levels of several olfactory genes in larvae subjected to different treatments were analyzed. The results suggest that the expression of certain components of the GABA signaling pathway is sensitive to microbiota load. The study concludes that the microbiota influences homeostatic mechanisms in the host that control GABA production and GABA-receptor expression, which are known to impact host olfactory behavior. These results have implications for understanding the bidirectional communication between a host organism and its microbiota as well as for understanding the modulation of olfactory neuron function.
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Vol. 90 • No. 4