Neurotoxic protein expression reveals connections between the circadian clock and mating behavior in Drosophila

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Sep 5;103(36):13537-42. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0605962103. Epub 2006 Aug 28.


To investigate the functions of circadian neurons, we added two strategies to the standard Drosophila behavioral genetics repertoire. The first was to express a polyglutamine-expanded neurotoxic protein (MJDtr78Q; MJD, Machado-Joseph disease) in the major timeless (tim)-expressing cells of the adult brain. These Tim-MJD flies were viable, in contrast to the use of cell-death gene expression for tim neuron inactivation. Moreover, they were more arrhythmic than flies expressing other neurotoxins and had low but detectable tim mRNA levels. The second extended standard microarray technology from fly heads to dissected fly brains. By combining the two approaches, we identified a population of Tim-MJD-affected mRNAs. Some had been previously identified as sex-specific and relevant to courtship, including mRNAs localized to brain-proximal fat-body tissue and brain courtship centers. Finally, we found a decrease in the number of neurons that expressed male-specific forms of the fruitless protein in the laterodorsal region of the brain. The decrease was not a consequence of toxic protein expression within these specialized cells but a likely effect of communication with neighboring TIM-expressing neurons. The data suggest a functional interaction between adjacent circadian and mating circuits within the fly brain, as well as an interaction between circadian circuits and brain-proximal fat body.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ataxin-3
  • Biological Clocks*
  • Drosophila / genetics
  • Drosophila / physiology*
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Genes, Insect
  • Insect Proteins / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal*
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Insect Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Transcription Factors
  • fru protein, Drosophila
  • tim protein, Drosophila
  • Ataxin-3
  • Atxn3 protein, mouse