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Cold Spring Harb Symp Quant Biol. 2007;72:113-8. doi: 10.1101/sqb.2007.72.056.

The ancestral circadian clock of monarch butterflies: role in time-compensated sun compass orientation.

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Department of Neurobiology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts 01605, USA.


The circadian clock has a vital role in monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) migration by providing the timing component of time-compensated sun compass orientation, which contributes to navigation to the overwintering grounds. The location of circadian clock cells in monarch brain has been identified in the dorsolateral protocerebrum (pars lateralis); these cells express PERIOD, TIMELESS, and a Drosophila-like cryptochrome designated CRY1. Monarch butterflies, like all other nondrosophilid insects examined so far, express a second cry gene (designated insect CRY2) that encodes a vertebrate-like CRY that is also expressed in pars lateralis. An ancestral circadian clock mechanism has been defined in monarchs, in which CRY1 functions as a blue light photoreceptor for photic entrainment, whereas CRY2 functionswithin the clockwork as themajor transcriptional repressor of an intracellular negative transcriptional feedback loop. A CRY1-staining neural pathway has been identified that may connect the circadian (navigational) clock to polarized light input important for sun compass navigation, and a CRY2-positive neural pathway has been discovered that may communicate circadian information directly from the circadian clock to the central complex, the likely site of the sun compass. The monarch butterfly may thus use the CRY proteins as components of the circadian mechanism and also as output molecules that connect the clock to various aspects of the sun compass apparatus.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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