The giant fiber system (GFS) is a simple network of neurons that mediates visually elicited escape behavior in Drosophila. The giant fiber (GF), the major component of the system, is a large, descending interneuron that relays visual stimuli to the motoneurons that innervate the tergotrochanteral jump muscle (TTM) and dorsal longitudinal flight muscles (DLMs). Mutations in the neural transcript from the shaking-B locus abolish the behavioral response by disrupting transmission at some electrical synapses in the GFS. This study focuses on the role of the gene in the development of the synaptic connections. Using an enhancer-trap line that expresses lacZ in the GFs, we show that the neurons develop during the first 30 hr of metamorphosis. Within the next 15 hr, they begin to form electrical synapses, as indicated by the transfer of intracellularly injected Lucifer yellow. The GFs dye-couple to the TTM motoneuron between 30 and 45 hr of metamorphosis, to the peripherally synapsing interneuron that drives the DLM motoneurons at approximately 48 hr, and to giant commissural interneurons in the brain at approximately 55 hr. Immunocytochemistry with shaking-B peptide antisera demonstrates that the expression of shaking-B protein in the region of GFS synapses coincides temporally with the onset of synaptogenesis; expression persists thereafter. The mutation shak-B2, which eliminates protein expression, prevents the establishment of dye coupling shaking-B, therefore, is essential for the assembly and/or maintenance of functional gap junctions at electrical synapses in the GFS
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