Background: Circadian rhythms regulate physiology and behavior through transcriptional feedback loops of clock genes running within specific pacemaker cells. In Drosophila, molecular oscillations in the small ventral lateral neurons (sLNvs) command rhythmic behavior under free-running conditions releasing the neuropeptide PIGMENT DISPERSING FACTOR (PDF) in a circadian fashion. Electrical activity in the sLNvs is also required for behavioral rhythmicity. Yet, how temporal information is transduced into behavior remains unclear.
Results: Here we developed a new tool for temporal control of gene expression to obtain adult-restricted electrical silencing of the PDF circuit, which led to reversible behavioral arrhythmicity. Remarkably, PERIOD (PER) oscillations during the silenced phase remained unaltered, indicating that arrhythmicity is a direct consequence of the silenced activity. Accordingly, circadian axonal remodeling and PDF accumulation were severely affected during the silenced phase.
Conclusions: Although electrical activity of the sLNvs is not a clock component, it coordinates circuit outputs leading to rhythmic behavior.
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