Analysis of the Drosophila Clock promoter reveals heterogeneity in expression between subgroups of central oscillator cells and identifies a novel enhancer region

J Biol Rhythms. 2009 Oct;24(5):353-67. doi: 10.1177/0748730409343890.


The CLOCK-CYCLE (CLK-CYC) heterodimer lies at the heart of the circadian oscillator mechanism in Drosophila, yet little is known about the identity of transcription factors that regulate the expression of Clk and/or cyc. Here, the authors have used a transgenic approach to isolate regions of the Clk locus that are necessary for expression in central oscillator neurons in the adult fly brain. This analysis shows that central clock cells can be subdivided into 2 distinct groups based on Clk gene regulation. Expression in the lateral neuron (LN), dorsal neuron 1 anterior (DN1a) and 2 (DN2) clusters requires cis-elements located in a 122 base-pair (bp) region (-206 to -84) of the Clk promoter. Expression in the remaining dorsal neurons, 1 posterior (DN1p) and 3 (DN3) and the lateral posterior neurons (LPN), requires regulatory elements located in the -856 to -206 region. In addition, expression in photoreceptors of the compound eye is enhanced by cis-elements located in a 3rd region of the Clk locus (-1982 to -856). This region also enhances expression in nonoscillator cells in the brain including the Kenyon cells, but expression in these neurons is suppressed by regulatory sites located further upstream of -1982. The authors' analysis reveals clear heterogeneity in Clk gene expression in the adult brain and provides a necessary focus to isolate novel transcription factors that bind at the Clk locus to regulate expression in different oscillator neuron subgroups. These results also suggest that the DN1a/DN2 neurons may have more molecular commonality with the LNs than they do with the DN1p/DN3/LPN neurons. Finally, this analysis has generated new transgenic lines that will enable genes to be misexpressed in subgroups of central oscillator cells that have previously been resistant to discrete genetic manipulation. Hence, these lines provide important new tools to facilitate a more complete dissection of the neural network that regulates output rhythms in physiology and behavior.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Biological Clocks / physiology
  • CLOCK Proteins / genetics*
  • CLOCK Proteins / metabolism
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics*
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism
  • Drosophila* / genetics
  • Drosophila* / metabolism
  • Enhancer Elements, Genetic*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Male
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Photoperiod
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic*
  • Transgenes


  • Clk protein, Drosophila
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • tim protein, Drosophila
  • CLOCK Proteins