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J Biol Rhythms. 2001 Apr;16(2):125-41.

Phase response curves of a molecular model oscillator: implications for mutual coupling of paired oscillators.

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Institut für Zoologie/Biologie I, Universität Regensburg, Germany.


Increasing evidence indicates that the accessory medulla is the circadian pacemaker controlling locomotor activity rhythms in insects. A prominent group of neurons of this neuropil shows immunoreactivity to the peptide pigment-dispersing hormone (PDH). In Drosophila melanogaster, the PDH-immunoreactive (PDH-ir) lateral neurons, which also express the clock genes period and timeless, are assumed to be circadian pacemaker cells themselves. In other insects, such as Leucophaea maderae, a subset of apparently homologue PDH-ir cells is a candidate for the circadian coupling pathway of the bilaterally symmetric clocks. Although knowledge about molecular mechanisms of the circadian clockwork is increasing rapidly, very little is known about mechanisms of circadian coupling. The authors used a computer model, based on the molecular feedback loop of the clock genes in D. melanogaster, to test the hypothesis that release of PDH is involved in the coupling between bilaterally paired oscillators. They can show that a combination of all-delay- and all-advance-type interactions between two model oscillators matches best the experimental findings on mutual pacemaker coupling in L. maderae. The model predicts that PDH affects the phosphorylation rate of clock genes and that in addition to PDH, another neuroactive substance is involved in the coupling pathway, via an all-advance type of interaction. The model suggests that PDH and light pulses, represented by two distinct classes of phase response curves, have different targets in the oscillatory feedback loop and are, therefore, likely to act in separate input pathways to the clock.

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