The Toll Route to Structural Brain Plasticity

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The human brain can change throughout life as we learn, adapt and age. A balance between structural brain plasticity and homeostasis characterizes the healthy brain, and the breakdown of this balance accompanies brain tumors, psychiatric disorders, and neurodegenerative diseases. However, the link between circuit modifications, brain function, and behavior remains unclear. Importantly, the underlying molecular mechanisms are starting to be uncovered. The fruit-fly Drosophila is a very powerful model organism to discover molecular mechanisms and test them in vivo. There is abundant evidence that the Drosophila brain is plastic, and here we travel from the pioneering discoveries to recent findings and progress on molecular mechanisms. We pause on the recent discovery that, in the Drosophila central nervous system, Toll receptors—which bind neurotrophin ligands—regulate structural plasticity during development and in the adult brain. Through their topographic distribution across distinct brain modules and their ability to switch between alternative signaling outcomes, Tolls can enable the brain to translate experience into structural change. Intriguing similarities between Toll and mammalian Toll-like receptor function could reveal a further involvement in structural plasticity, degeneration, and disease in the human brain.
Original languageEnglish
Article number679766
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jul 2021


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