As a consequence of the Earth's axial rotation, organisms display daily recurring rhythms in behavior and biochemical properties, such as hormone titers. The neuronal system controlling such changes is best studied in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. In the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans, most homologs of these genes function in the heterochronic pathway controlling the (timing of) developmental events. Recent data indicate that in the worm at least one of the genes involved in developmental timing is also active in circadian rhythm control, thereby opening up new perspectives on a central (neuronal) timer interfering with many processes. Also, new neuropeptidergic clock homologs have been identified in nematodes, supporting the idea of a broad range of clock-regulated targets. We will describe the current knowledge on homologous clock genes in C. elegans with a focus on the recently discovered pigment dispersing factor gene homologs. Similarities between developmental and daily timing are discussed.
© 2011 New York Academy of Sciences.