Latitudinal clines in the properties of a circadian pacemaker

J Biol Rhythms. Summer 1989;4(2):217-35.


The circadian rhythm of eclosion activity and its pacemaker were analyzed in a series of latitudinal races of Drosophila auraria ranging from 34.2 degrees to 42.9 degrees N in Japan. The phase of the rhythm (psi EL) to the daily photoperiod (PP) changes as daylength is increased, and the slope of psi EL (PP) changes with latitude. Is is sufficiently greater in the north to cause a phase reversal of northern and southern races on long versus short photoperiods. This reversal is found in assays of the pacemaker's phase (psi PL) as well as that of the rhythm (psi EL). Assay of the pacemaker shows that its period (tau) is longer in northern than in southern races, and that the amplitude of its phase response curve (PRC) is lower in the north. The period of the rhythm in all latitudinal races is longer than 24 hr in short photoperiods (LD 1:23), but is probably less than 24 hr (as an aftereffect of photoperiod) in longer days such as LD 14:10. The observed north-south differences in the phase relation of both pacemaker and rhythm to the light cycle are explained by the latitudinal clines in pacemaker properties and a postulated aftereffect of photoperiod on tau. It is suggested that the latitudinal cline in PRC amplitude has functional significance in conserving the amplitude of the pacemaker's signal to the rest of the system it times. Computer simulation shows that without such a reduction in the perceived light intensity, pacemaker amplitude will be lowered by the increase in duration of the daily light at higher latitudes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Circadian Rhythm*
  • Drosophila
  • Geography
  • Japan
  • Light
  • Periodicity