Functional analysis of circadian pacemaker neurons in Drosophila melanogaster

Dirk Rieger, Orie Thomas Shafer, Kenji Tomioka, Charlotte Helfrich-Förster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

179 Citations (Scopus)


The molecular mechanisms of circadian rhythms are well known, but how multiple clocks within one organism generate a structured rhythmic output remains a mystery. Many animals show bimodal activity rhythms with morning (M) and evening (E) activity bouts. One long-standing model assumes that two mutually coupled oscillators underlie these bouts and show different sensitivities to light. Three groups of lateral neurons (LN) and three groups of dorsal neurons govern behavioral rhythmicity of Drosophila. Recent data suggest that two groups of the LN (the ventral subset of the small LN cells and the dorsal subset of LN cells) are plausible candidates for the M and E oscillator, respectively. We provide evidence that these neuronal groups respond differently to light and can be completely desynchronized from one another by constant light, leading to two activity components that free-run with different periods. As expected, a long-period component started from the E activity bout. However, a short-period component originated not exclusively from the morning peak but more prominently from the evening peak. This reveals an interesting deviation from the original Pittendrigh and Daan (1976) model and suggests that a subgroup of the ventral subset of the small LN acts as "main" oscillator controlling M and E activity bouts in Drosophila.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2531-2543
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2006


  • Constant light
  • Cryptochrome
  • Dual oscillators
  • Internal desynchronization
  • Period
  • Timeless

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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