Light-Mediated Circuit Switching in the Drosophila Neuronal Clock Network

Curr Biol. 2019 Oct 7;29(19):3266-3276.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.08.033. Epub 2019 Sep 26.


The circadian clock is a timekeeper but also helps adapt physiology to the outside world. This is because an essential feature of clocks is their ability to adjust (entrain) to the environment, with light being the most important signal. Whereas cryptochrome-mediated entrainment is well understood in Drosophila, integration of light information via the visual system lacks a neuronal or molecular mechanism. Here, we show that a single photoreceptor subtype is essential for long-day adaptation. These cells activate key circadian neurons, namely the large ventral-lateral neurons (lLNvs), which release the neuropeptide pigment-dispersing factor (PDF). RNAi and rescue experiments show that PDF from these cells is necessary and sufficient for delaying the timing of the evening (E) activity in long-day conditions. This contrasts to PDF that derives from the small ventral-lateral neurons (sLNvs), which are essential for constant darkness (DD) rhythmicity. Using a cell-specific CRISPR/Cas9 assay, we show that lLNv-derived PDF directly interacts with neurons important for E activity timing. Interestingly, this pathway is specific for long-day adaptation and appears to be dispensable in equinox or DD conditions. The results therefore indicate that external cues cause a rearrangement of neuronal hierarchy, which contributes to behavioral plasticity.

Keywords: Drosophila melanogaster; circadian clock; compound eyes; photoperiod; pigment dispersing factor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Circadian Clocks / genetics*
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics*
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Neuropeptides / genetics*
  • Neuropeptides / metabolism
  • RNA Interference


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Neuropeptides
  • pdf protein, Drosophila