Peptidergic clock neurons in Drosophila: ion transport peptide and short neuropeptide F in subsets of dorsal and ventral lateral neurons

J Comp Neurol. 2009 Sep 1;516(1):59-73. doi: 10.1002/cne.22099.


About 150 clock neurons are clustered in different groups in the brain of Drosophila. Among these clock neurons, some pigment-dispersing factor (PDF)-positive and PDF-negative lateral neurons (LNs) are principal oscillators responsible for bouts of activity in the morning and evening, respectively. The full complement of neurotransmitters in these morning and evening oscillators is not known. By using a screen for candidate neuromediators in clock neurons, we discovered ion transport peptide (ITP) and short neuropeptide F (sNPF) as novel neuropeptides in subpopulations of dorsal (LN(d)s) and ventral (s-LN(v)s) LNs. Among the six LN(d)s, ITP was found in one that coexpresses long neuropeptide F (NPF) and cryptochrome. We detected sNPF in two LN(d)s that also express cryptochrome; these cells are distinct from three LN(d)s expressing NPF. Thus, we have identified neuropeptides in five of the six LN(d)s. The three LN(d)s expressing cryptochrome, with either ITP or sNPF, are the only ones with additional projections to the accessory medulla. Among the five s-LN(v)s in the adult brain, ITP was detected in the fifth neuron that is devoid of PDF and sNPF in the four neurons that also express PDF. By using a choline acetyltransferase (Cha) Gal4, we detected Cha expression in the two sNPF producing LN(d)s and in the fifth s-LN(v). In the larval brain, two of the four PDF-producing s-LN(v)s coexpress sNPF. Our findings emphasize that the LN(d)s are heterogeneous both anatomically and with respect to content of neuropeptides, cryptochrome, and other markers and suggest diverse functions of these neurons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / physiology
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase / metabolism
  • Circadian Rhythm / drug effects
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Cryptochromes
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Eye Proteins / metabolism
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Larva
  • Locomotion / drug effects
  • Neural Pathways / drug effects
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Neuropeptides / metabolism*
  • Neurotoxins / pharmacology
  • R-SNARE Proteins / metabolism
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism
  • Tetanus Toxin / pharmacology


  • Cryptochromes
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Eye Proteins
  • Neuropeptides
  • Neurotoxins
  • R-SNARE Proteins
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Syb protein, Drosophila
  • Tetanus Toxin
  • cry protein, Drosophila
  • ion transport peptide, Drosophila
  • pdf protein, Drosophila
  • short neuropeptide F, Drosophila
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase