Identifying specific light inputs for each subgroup of brain clock neurons in Drosophila larvae

J Neurosci. 2011 Nov 30;31(48):17406-15. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5159-10.2011.


In Drosophila, opsin visual photopigments as well as blue-light-sensitive cryptochrome (CRY) contribute to the synchronization of circadian clocks. We focused on the relatively simple larval brain, with nine clock neurons per hemisphere: five lateral neurons (LNs), four of which express the pigment-dispersing factor (PDF) neuropeptide, and two pairs of dorsal neurons (DN1s and DN2s). CRY is present only in the PDF-expressing LNs and the DN1s. The larval visual organ expresses only two rhodopsins (RH5 and RH6) and projects onto the LNs. We recently showed that PDF signaling is required for light to synchronize the CRY(-) larval DN2s. We now show that, in the absence of functional CRY, synchronization of the DN1s also requires PDF, suggesting that these neurons have no direct connection with the visual system. In contrast, the fifth (PDF(-)) LN does not require the PDF-expressing cells to receive visual system inputs. All clock neurons are light-entrained by light-dark cycles in the rh5(2);cry(b), rh6(1) cry(b), and rh5(2);rh6(1) double mutants, whereas the triple mutant is circadianly blind. Thus, any one of the three photosensitive molecules is sufficient, and there is no other light input for the larval clock. Finally, we show that constant activation of the visual system can suppress molecular oscillations in the four PDF-expressing LNs, whereas, in the adult, this effect of constant light requires CRY. A surprising diversity and specificity of light input combinations thus exists even for this simple clock network.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • CLOCK Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila / physiology*
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Larva / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Photoperiod
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Invertebrate / physiology*
  • Rhodopsin / genetics


  • Clk protein, Drosophila
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Rhodopsin
  • CLOCK Proteins