Robust circadian rhythmicity of Drosophila melanogaster requires the presence of lateral neurons: a brain-behavioral study of disconnected mutants

J Comp Physiol A. 1998 Apr;182(4):435-53. doi: 10.1007/s003590050192.


Mutations at the disconnected (disco) locus of Drosophila melanogaster disrupt neural cell patterning in the visual system, leading to the loss of many optic lobe neurons. Drosophila's presumptive circadian pacemaker neurons--the dorsal and ventral lateral neurons--are usually among the missing cells, and most disco flies are behaviorally arrhythmic. In this study, I show that ventral lateral neurons (LNvs) are occasionally present and provoke robust circadian rhythmicity in disco mutants. Of 357 individual disco flies four animals with robust circadian rhythmicity were found. All four retained LNvs together with terminals in the superior protocerebrum. Residual or bi-circadian rhythmicity was found in about 20% of all flies; the remaining flies were completely arrhythmic. One of the flies with residual rhythmicity and two of the arrhythmic flies also had some LNvs stained. However, these flies lacked the LNv fibers in the superior protocerebrum. The results suggest that the presence of single LNvs is sufficient to provoke robust circadian rhythmicity in locomotor activity if the LNv terminals reach the superior protocerebrum. The presence of residual or bi-circadian rhythmicity in 20% of the flies without LNvs indicates that also other cells contribute to the rhythmic control of locomotor activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Circadian Rhythm*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Motor Activity
  • Mutation
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Phenotype