Recent publications

Bioessays.: auth.: group Benton

Bioessays. 2017 Jun 16. doi: 10.1002/bies.201700060. [Epub ahead of print]

Multisensory neural integration of chemical and mechanical signals.


Chemosensation and mechanosensation cover an enormous spectrum of processes by which animals use information from the environment to adapt their behavior. For pragmatic reasons, these sensory modalities are commonly investigated independently. Recent advances, however, have revealed numerous situations in which they function together to control animals’ actions. Highlighting examples from diverse vertebrates and invertebrates, we first discuss sensory receptors and neurons that have dual roles in the detection of chemical and mechanical stimuli. Next we present cases where peripheral chemosensory and mechanosensory pathways are discrete but intimately packaged to permit coordinated reception of external cues. Finally, we consider how chemical and mechanical signals converge in central neural circuitry to enable multisensory integration. These insights demonstrate how investigation of the interplay between different sensory modalities is key to a more holistic and realistic understanding of sensory-guided behaviors.


behavior; chemosensation; mechanosensation; multisensory integration; neural circuit; neurogenetics; sensory receptor

PMID: 28621811

Elife.: auth.: group Benton

Elife. 2017 Jun 16;6. pii: e26654. doi: 10.7554/eLife.26654. [Epub ahead of print]

Ionotropic Receptor-dependent moist and dry cells control hygrosensation in Drosophila.


Insects use hygrosensation (humidity sensing) to avoid desiccation and, in vectors such as mosquitoes, to locate vertebrate hosts. Sensory neurons activated by either dry or moist air (‘dry cells’ and ‘moist cells’) have been described in many insects, but their behavioral roles and the molecular basis of their hygrosensitivity remain unclear. We recently reported that Drosophila hygrosensation relies on three Ionotropic Receptors (IRs) required for dry cell function: IR25a, IR93a and IR40a (Knecht et al., 2016). Here we discover Drosophila moist cells, and show they require IR25a and IR93a together with IR68a, a conserved, but orphan IR. Both IR68a- and IR40a-dependent pathways drive hygrosensory behavior: each is important for dry-seeking by hydrated flies and together they underlie moist-seeking by dehydrated flies. These studies reveal that humidity sensing in Drosophila, and likely other insects, involves the combined activity of two molecularly related but neuronally distinct hygrosensing systems.


D. melanogaster; neuroscience

PMID: 28621663

Curr Opin Insect Sci.: auth.: R.Benton

Curr Opin Insect Sci. 2017 Apr;20:19-27. doi: 10.1016/j.cois.2017.02.003. Epub 2017 Mar 7.

The neurobiology of gustation in insect disease vectors: progress and potential.


For insect vectors of human diseases, mealtimes are a key moment of infection. Understanding how and when such species decide on what to feed is both an interesting problem in sensory neurobiology and a source of information for intervention of these behaviors to control spread of infectious agents. Here I review the current knowledge of the molecular and cellular mechanisms of gustation in insect disease vectors, covering blood-feeders as well as scavengers that spread pathogens indirectly. I also consider how these behaviors are modulated over short and long timescales, and describe efforts to artificially modulate them. Though a relatively nascent field, gustatory neurobiology in insect vectors has much promise for future fundamental discoveries and practical applications.

PMID: 28602232

June 20, 2017 Sem. O. Lucas, GEN B


Dr. Olivier Lucas

Strategic Account Manager, France & Western Europe; Oxford Nanopore Technologies Ltd.

“Too good to be true? DNA sequencing by Oxford Nanopore. Now.”

Tuesday, 20th June 2017


Génopode Building, Auditorium B

Host: Dr Keith Harshman

All the interested people are cordially invited.


Elife.: auth.: group Franken

Elife. 2017 May 26;6. pii: e23292. doi: 10.7554/eLife.23292.

Rai1 frees mice from the repression of active wake behaviors by lightlight.


Besides its role in vision, light impacts physiology and behavior through circadian and direct (aka ‘masking’) mechanisms. In Smith-Magenis syndrome (SMS), the dysregulation of both sleep-wake behavior and melatonin production strongly suggests impaired non-visual light perception. We discovered that mice haploinsufficient for the SMS causal gene, Retinoic acid induced-1 (Rai1), were hypersensitive to light such that light eliminated alert and active-wake behaviors, while leaving time-spent-awake unaffected. Moreover, variables pertaining to circadian rhythm entrainment were activated more strongly by light. At the input level, the activation of rod/cone and suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) by light was paradoxically greatly reduced, while the downstream activation of the ventral-subparaventricular zone (vSPVZ) was increased. The vSPVZ integrates retinal and SCN input and, when activated, suppresses locomotor activity, consistent with the behavioral hypersensitivity to light we observed. Our results implicate Rai1 as a novel and central player in processing non-visual light information, from input to behavioral output.


circadian rhythm; human biology; light; medicine; mouse; neuroscience; sleep; smith-magenis syndrome; supra-chiasmatic nuclei; ventral-subparaventricular zone


Welcome to Stéphanie!

Stéphanie Scuderi has joined the CIG on June 1st ,2017. She is going to replace Danielle at the secretariat on the 5th floor. She is going to work for B. Thorens’s and F. Hamaratoglu’s groups every mornings and also Thursdays pm. Before joining the CIG, she has worked for many years at a research and development private company in Lausanne.

Photo Stéphanie S.