Ionotropic Receptors Specify the Morphogenesis of Phasic Sensors Controlling Rapid Thermal Preference in Drosophila

Gonzalo Budelli, Lina Ni, Cristina Berciu, Lena van Giesen, Zachary A. Knecht, Elaine C. Chang, Benjamin Kaminski, Ana F. Silbering, Aravi Samuel, Mason Klein, Richard Benton, Daniela Nicastro, Paul A. Garrity

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Thermosensation is critical for avoiding thermal extremes and regulating body temperature. While thermosensors activated by noxious temperatures respond to hot or cold, many innocuous thermosensors exhibit robust baseline activity and lack discrete temperature thresholds, suggesting they are not simply warm and cool detectors. Here, we investigate how the aristal Cold Cells encode innocuous temperatures in Drosophila. We find they are not cold sensors but cooling-activated and warming-inhibited phasic thermosensors that operate similarly at warm and cool temperatures; we propose renaming them “Cooling Cells.” Unexpectedly, Cooling Cell thermosensing does not require the previously reported Brivido Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) channels. Instead, three Ionotropic Receptors (IRs), IR21a, IR25a, and IR93a, specify both the unique structure of Cooling Cell cilia endings and their thermosensitivity. Behaviorally, Cooling Cells promote both warm and cool avoidance. These findings reveal a morphogenetic role for IRs and demonstrate the central role of phasic thermosensing in innocuous thermosensation. Video Abstract: Budelli et al. find Drosophila thermoregulatory behavior is driven by a combination of heating and cooling detectors rather than hot- and cold-labeled lines. They further show Ionotropic Receptors not only confer thermosensitivity but also specify the thermoreceptor's complex dendritic morphology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)738-747.e3
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 20 2019


  • Ir21a
  • Ir25a
  • Ir93a
  • iGluR
  • ionotropic receptor
  • morphogenesis
  • sensory neuron
  • temperature
  • thermoreceptor
  • thermosensation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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