Menegazzi, P., Vanin, Stefano, Yoshii, T., Rieger, D., Hermann, C., Dusik, V., Kyriacou, C. P., Helfrich-Forster, C. and Costa, R. (2013) Drosophila Clock Neurons under Natural Conditions. Journal of Biological Rhythms, 28 (1). pp. 3-14. ISSN 0748-7304

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

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