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Estimation of spike initiation zone and synaptic input parameters of a Drosophila motoneuron using a morphologically reconstructed model

The fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster has recently emerged as a powerful model for studying neuronal circuit development and function through identified neurons. A major obstacle to these studies has been a lack of computational models of these neurons for generating and testing hypotheses with fast-throughput simulations. Here, we constructed a computational model of an identified Drosophila motoneuron, aCC/MN1-Ib, from its recorded biophysical and anatomical properties [1]. Constructing this model required estimating the location and properties of distal spike-generating Na+ and K+ channels. The effects of channel location were simulated by including anatomical details in the model through a morphological reconstruction. By simulating a match to the observed in vivo electrophysiological characteristics, we predict the anatomical location of the spike initiation zone (SIZ) to be distal on aCC’s primary axon [2]. The complex morphology of the neuron effectively filters fast activating ionic currents which occur at the SIZ but are recoded from the soma in vivo. In particular, the transient component of the voltage-activated sodium current is extensively filtered relative to the slower persistent component. Input-output behavior in a broader network context was also predicted [2]: about 20 miniature excitatory potentials are required for initiating an action potential and about 200 individual potentials underlie evoked spontaneous rhythmic currents (SRC) in this neuron. Our model of aCC, which is the first morphologically-realistic active model of an identified Drosophila motoneuron, provides a template for further investigation of neuronal function in health and disease.


  1. Günay C, Dharmar L, Sieling F, Baines RA, Prinz AA: A compartmental model of an identified Drosophila larval motoneuron for investigating functional effects of ion channel parameters. BMC Neuroscience 2012. 2011, 12 (Suppl 1): P258-

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  2. Günay C, Sieling F, Dharmar L, Lin W-H, Wolfram V, Marley R, Baines RA, Prinz AA: Estimation of spike initiation zone and synaptic input parameters of an identified larval Drosophila motoneuron using a morphologically reconstructed electrical model. Submitted

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Career Award at the Scientific Interface (CASI) from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund awarded to AAP. Postdoctoral Fellowship from Epilepsy Foundation of America awarded to CG.

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Correspondence to Cengiz Günay.

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This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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Günay, C., Prinz, A.A. Estimation of spike initiation zone and synaptic input parameters of a Drosophila motoneuron using a morphologically reconstructed model. BMC Neurosci 15 (Suppl 1), P65 (2014).

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