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Nature. 2005 Nov 10;438(7065):238-42.

A resetting signal between Drosophila pacemakers synchronizes morning and evening activity.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute and National Center for Behavioral Genomics, Department of Biology, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts 02454, USA.


The biochemical machinery that underlies circadian rhythms is conserved among animal species and drives self-sustained molecular oscillations and functions, even within individual asynchronous tissue-culture cells. Yet the rhythm-generating neural centres of higher eukaryotes are usually composed of interconnected cellular networks, which contribute to robustness and synchrony as well as other complex features of rhythmic behaviour. In mammals, little is known about how individual brain oscillators are organized to orchestrate a complex behavioural pattern. Drosophila is arguably more advanced from this point of view: we and others have recently shown that a group of adult brain clock neurons expresses the neuropeptide PDF and controls morning activity (small LN(v) cells; M-cells), whereas another group of clock neurons controls evening activity (CRY+, PDF- cells; E-cells). We have generated transgenic mosaic animals with different circadian periods in morning and evening cells. Here we show, by behavioural and molecular assays, that the six canonical groups of clock neurons are organized into two separate neuronal circuits. One has no apparent effect on locomotor rhythmicity in darkness, but within the second circuit the molecular and behavioural timing of the evening cells is determined by morning-cell properties. This is due to a daily resetting signal from the morning to the evening cells, which run at their genetically programmed pace between consecutive signals. This neural circuit and oscillator-coupling mechanism ensures a proper relationship between the timing of morning and evening locomotor activity.

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