The regulatory mechanisms that orchestrate the developmental acquisition of electrical properties in embryonic neurons are poorly understood. Progress in this important area is dependent oil the availability of preparations that allow electrophysiology to be married with genetics. The powerful genetics of the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster has long been exploited to describe fundamental mechanisms associated with structural neuronal development (i.e. axon guidance). It has not, however, been fully employed to study the final stages of embryonic neural development and in particular the acquisition of electrical activity. This review focuses oil the recent development of a Drosophila preparation that allows central neurons to be accessed by patch electrodes at both embryonic and larval stages. This preparation, which allows electrophysiology to be Coupled with genetics, offers the prospect of making significant advances in Our understanding of functional neuron development. (C) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved
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