Mihalek, R.*, C.J. Jones*, and T. Tully. 1997. "The Drosophila Mutation turnip has Pleiotropic Behavioral Effects and Does Not Specifically Affect Learning." Learning and Memory 3:425-444.
* Equal contributors
The Drosophila mutant turnip (tur) was isolated on the basis of its poor performance in an olfactory learning task, and also has a reduction in protein kinase C (PKC) activity. PKC has been found in the nervous systems of a wide range of organisms and appears to have an important role in learning and memory-related processes. Unfortunately, previous reports documenting the learning defect of tur lacked the controls required to assess the origins of the poor performance of the mutant. We have analyzed the effects of the tur mutation on both associative and nonassociative learning as well as on PKC activity. Additionally, the effects of the mutation on the task-relevant sensorimotor abilities of the flies were assessed. Although we were able to replicate previous behavioral and biochemical results obtained with tur, we discovered that the tur mutation also affected response to electric shock and caused a drastic reduction in the locomotor ability of the flies. Because locomotion is an essential component of the learning assays, this result makes it impossible to conclude that tur specifically affects learning and demonstrates the crucial importance of sensorimotor controls in conditioning experiments.