The three Drosophila atypical soluble guanylyl cyclases, Gyc-89Da, Gyc-89Db, and Gyc-88E, have been proposed to act as oxygen detectors mediating behavioral responses to hypoxia. Drosophila larvae mutant in any of these subunits were defective in their hypoxia escape response - a rapid cessation of feeding and withdrawal from their food. This response required cGMP and the cyclic nucleotide-gated ion channel, cng, but did not appear to be dependent on either of the cGMP-dependent protein kinases, dg1 and dg2. Specific activation of the Gyc-89Da neurons using channel rhodopsin showed that activation of these neurons was sufficient to trigger the escape behavior. The hypoxia escape response was restored by reintroducing either Gyc-89Da or Gyc-89Db into either Gyc-89Da or Gyc-89Db neurons in either mutation. This suggests that neurons that co-express both Gyc-89Da and Gyc-89Db subunits are primarily responsible for activating this behavior. These include sensory neurons that innervate the terminal sensory cones. Although the roles of Gyc-89Da and Gyc-89Db in the hypoxia escape behavior appeared to be identical, we also showed that changes in larval crawling behavior in response to either hypoxia or hyperoxia differed in their requirements for these two atypical sGCs, with responses to 15% oxygen requiring Gyc-89Da and responses to 19 and 25% requiring Gyc-89Db. For this behavior, the identity of the neurons appeared to be critical in determining the ability to respond appropriately.
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