Electrical silencing of PDF neurons advances the phase of non-PDF clock neurons in Drosophila

J Biol Rhythms. 2008 Apr;23(2):117-28. doi: 10.1177/0748730407312984.


Drosophila clock neurons exhibit self-sustaining cellular oscillations that rely in part on rhythmic transcriptional feedback loops. We have previously determined that electrical silencing of the pigment dispersing factor (PDF)-expressing lateral-ventral (LN(V)) pacemaker subset of fly clock neurons via expression of an inward-rectifier K(+) channel (Kir2.1) severely disrupts free-running rhythms of locomotor activity-most flies are arrhythmic and those that are not exhibit weak short-period rhythms-and abolishes LN(V) molecular oscillation in constant darkness. PDF is known to be an important LN(V) output signal. Here we examine the effects of electrical silencing of the LN(V) pacemakers on molecular rhythms in other, nonsilenced, subsets of clock neurons. In contrast to previously described cell-autonomous abolition of free-running molecular rhythms, we find that electrical silencing of the LN(V) pacemakers via Kir2.1 expression does not impair molecular rhythms in LN(D), DN1, and DN2 subsets of clock neurons. However, free-running molecular rhythms in these non-LN(V) clock neurons occur with advanced phase. Electrical silencing of LN(V)s phenocopies PDF null mutation (pdf (01) ) at both behavioral and molecular levels except for the complete abolition of free-running cellular oscillation in the LN(V)s themselves. LN(V) electrically silenced or pdf 01 flies exhibit weak free-running behavioral rhythms with short period, and the molecular oscillation in non-LN(V) neurons phase advances in constant darkness. That LN( V) electrical silencing leads to the same behavioral and non-LN( V) molecular phenotypes as pdf 01 suggests that persistence of LN(V) molecular oscillation in pdf 01 flies has no functional effect, either on behavioral rhythms or on non-LN(V) molecular rhythms. We thus conclude that functionally relevant signals from LN(V)s to non-LN(V) clock neurons and other downstream targets rely both on PDF signaling and LN(V) electrical activity, and that LN( V)s do not ordinarily send functionally relevant signals via PDF-independent mechanisms.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basic-Leucine Zipper Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Biological Clocks / physiology*
  • Brain / cytology
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Male
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology*
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Neuropeptides / genetics
  • Neuropeptides / metabolism*
  • Potassium Channels, Inwardly Rectifying / genetics
  • Potassium Channels, Inwardly Rectifying / metabolism


  • Basic-Leucine Zipper Transcription Factors
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Kir2.1 channel
  • Neuropeptides
  • PDP1 protein, Drosophila
  • Potassium Channels, Inwardly Rectifying
  • pdf protein, Drosophila