The circadian clock network in the brain of different Drosophila species

J Comp Neurol. 2013 Feb 1;521(2):367-88. doi: 10.1002/cne.23178.


Comparative studies on cellular and molecular clock mechanisms have revealed striking similarities in the organization of the clocks among different animal groups. To gain evolutionary insight into the properties of the clock network within the Drosophila genus, we analyzed sequence identities and similarities of clock protein homologues and immunostained brains of 10 different Drosophila species using antibodies against vrille (VRI), PAR-protein domain1 (PDP1), and cryptochrome (CRY). We found that the clock network of both subgenera Sophophora and Drosophila consists of all lateral and dorsal clock neuron clusters that were previously described in Drosophila melanogaster. Immunostaining against CRY and the neuropeptide pigment-dispersing factor (PDF), however, revealed species-specific differences. All species of the Drosophila subgenus and D. pseudoobscura of the Sophophora subgenus completely lacked CRY in the large ventrolateral clock neurons (lLN(v) s) and showed reduced PDF immunostaining in the small ventrolateral clock neurons (sLN(v) s). In contrast, we found the expression of the ion transport peptide (ITP) to be consistent within the fifth sLN(v) and one dorsolateral clock neuron (LN(d) ) in all investigated species, suggesting a conserved putative function of this neuropeptide in the clock. We conclude that the general anatomy of the clock network is highly conserved throughout the Drosophila genus, although there is variation in PDF and CRY expression. Our comparative study is a first step toward understanding the organization of the circadian clock in Drosophila species adapted to different habitats.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies / immunology
  • Basic-Leucine Zipper Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Circadian Clocks / physiology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Cryptochromes / physiology
  • Drosophila / physiology*
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Nerve Net / cytology
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Neuropeptides / metabolism
  • Neuropeptides / physiology
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Invertebrate / physiology
  • Species Specificity


  • Antibodies
  • Basic-Leucine Zipper Transcription Factors
  • Cryptochromes
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Neuropeptides
  • PDP1 protein, Drosophila
  • pdf protein, Drosophila