BACKGROUNDThe fly visual system is a highly ordered brain structure with well-established physiological and behavioral functions. A large number of interneurons in the posterior part of the third visual neuropil, the lobula plate tangential cells (LPTCs), respond to visual motion stimuli. In these cells the mechanism of motion detection has been studied in great detail. Nevertheless, the cellular computations leading to their directionally selective responses are not yet fully understood. Earlier studies addressed the neuropharmacological basis of the motion response in lobula plate interneurons. In the present study we investigated the distribution of the respective neurotransmitter receptors in the fly visual system, namely nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) and GABA receptors (GABARs) demonstrated by antibody labeling.RESULTSThe medulla shows a laminar distribution of both nAChRs and GABARs. Both receptor types are present in layers that participate in motion processing. The lobula also shows a characteristic layering of immunoreactivity for either receptor in its posterior portion. Furthermore, immunostaining for nAChRs and GABARs can be observed in close vicinity of lobula plate tangential cells. Immunostaining of GABAergic fibers suggests that inhibitory inputs from the medulla are relayed through the lobula to the lobula plate rather than through direct connections between medulla and lobula plate.CONCLUSIONSThe interaction of excitatory and inhibitory pathways is essential for the computation of visual motion responses and discussed in the context of the Reichardt model for motion detection.