A Toll-receptor map underlies structural brain plasticity

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Manuel G. Forero
  • Ilgim Durmus
  • Reinhard Wolf
  • Mieczyslaw Parker
  • Ruiying Jiang
  • Jacob Hasenauer
  • Nicholas James Strausfeld
  • Martin Heisenberg

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • University of Birmingham


Experience alters brain structure, but the underlying mechanism remained unknown. Structural plasticity reveals that brain function is encoded in generative changes to cells that compete with destructive processes driving neurodegeneration. At an adult critical period, experience increases fiber number and brain size in Drosophila. Here, we asked if Toll receptors are involved. Tolls demarcate a map of brain anatomical domains. Focusing on Toll-2, loss of function caused apoptosis, neurite atrophy and impaired behaviour. Toll-2 gain of function and neuronal activity at the critical period increased cell number. Toll-2 induced cycling of adult progenitor cells via a novel pathway, that antagonized MyD88-dependent quiescence, and engaged Weckle and Yorkie downstream. Constant knock-down of multiple Tolls synergistically reduced brain size. Conditional over-expression of Toll-2 and wek at the adult critical period increased brain size. Through their topographic distribution, Toll receptors regulate neuronal number and brain size, modulating structural plasticity in the adult brain.

Bibliographic note

Selected for dedicated eLife Digest article "How experience shapes the brain". Link given below.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere52743
Pages (from-to)1-32
Number of pages32
Publication statusPublished - 18 Feb 2020
EventHow experience shapes the brain -
Duration: 17 Mar 202017 Mar 2020


  • D. melanogaster, Drosophila, MyD88, Toll, Yorkie, adul progenitor cells, adult neurogenesis, brain, critical period, neurodegeneration, neuron, neuronal activity, neuroscience, quiescence, structural plasticity, wek