Conserved regions of the timeless (tim) clock gene in Drosophila analyzed through phylogenetic and functional studies

Genetics. 1998 Feb;148(2):815-25. doi: 10.1093/genetics/148.2.815.


Circadian (approximately 24-hr) rhythms in Drosophila melanogaster depend upon cyclic expression of the period (per) and timeless (tim) genes, which encode interacting components of the endogenous clock. The per gene has been isolated from other insects and, more recently, a per ortholog was found in mammals where its expression oscillates in a circadian fashion. We report here the complete sequence of a tim gene from another species, Drosophila virilis. TIM is better conserved than the PER protein is between these two species (76 vs. 54% overall amino acid identity), and putative functional domains, such as the PER interaction domains and the nuclear localization signal, are highly conserved. The acidic domain and the cytoplasmic localization domain, however, are within the least conserved regions. In addition, the initiating methionine in the D. virilis gene lies downstream of the proposed translation start for the original D. melanogaster tim cDNA and corresponds to the one used by D. simulans and D. yakuba. Among the most conserved parts of TIM is a region of unknown function near the N terminus. We show here that deletion of a 32 amino acid segment within this region affects rescue of rhythms in arrhythmic tim01 flies. Flies carrying a full-length tim transgene displayed rhythms with approximately 24-hr periods, indicating that a fully functional clock can be restored in tim01 flies through expression of a tim transgene. Deletion of the segment mentioned above resulted in very long activity rhythms with periods ranging from 30.5 to 48 hr.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Biological Clocks / genetics*
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Conserved Sequence / genetics
  • Drosophila / physiology*
  • Drosophila Proteins*
  • Insect Proteins / chemistry*
  • Insect Proteins / physiology
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nuclear Proteins / genetics
  • Nuclear Proteins / physiology
  • Period Circadian Proteins
  • Phylogeny
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Sequence Deletion / genetics
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Transgenes / genetics


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Insect Proteins
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • PER protein, Drosophila
  • Period Circadian Proteins
  • tim protein, Drosophila