Drosophila clock neurons under natural conditions

Pamela Menegazzi, Stefano Vanin, Taishi Yoshii, Dirk Rieger, Christiane Hermann, Verena Dusik, Charalambos P. Kyriacou, Charlotte Helfrich-Förster, Rodolfo Costa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)


The circadian clock modulates the adaptive daily patterns of physiology and behavior and adjusts these rhythms to seasonal changes. Recent studies of seasonal locomotor activity patterns of wild-type and clock mutant fruit flies in quasi-natural conditions have revealed that these behavioral patterns differ considerably from those observed under standard laboratory conditions. To unravel the molecular features accompanying seasonal adaptation of the clock, we investigated Drosophila's neuronal expression of the canonical clock proteins PERIOD (PER) and TIMELESS (TIM) in nature. We find that the profile of PER dramatically changes in different seasons, whereas that of TIM remains more constant. Unexpectedly, we find that PER and TIM oscillations are decoupled in summer conditions. Moreover, irrespective of season, PER and TIM always peak earlier in the dorsal neurons than in the lateral neurons, suggesting a more rapid molecular oscillation in these cells. We successfully reproduced most of our results under simulated natural conditions in the laboratory and show that although photoperiod is the most important zeitgeber for the molecular clock, the flies' activity pattern is more strongly affected by temperature. Our results are among the first to systematically compare laboratory and natural studies of Drosophila rhythms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-14
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of biological rhythms
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2013


  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • circadian rhythms
  • clock neurons
  • clock proteins
  • natural conditions
  • seasonality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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