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J R Soc Interface. 2018 Mar;15(140). pii: 20180058. doi: 10.1098/rsif.2018.0058.

Expression patterns of cryptochrome genes in avian retina suggest involvement of Cry4 in light-dependent magnetoreception.

Author information

1
Department of Biology, Lund University, Biology Building B, Lund 223 62, Sweden atticus.pinzon_rodriguez@biol.lu.se.
2
Department of Biology, Lund University, Ecology Building, Lund 223 62, Sweden.
3
Department of Biology, Lund University, Biology Building B, Lund 223 62, Sweden.

Abstract

The light-dependent magnetic compass of birds provides orientation information about the spatial alignment of the geomagnetic field. It is proposed to be located in the avian retina, and be mediated by a light-induced, biochemical radical-pair mechanism involving cryptochromes as putative receptor molecules. At the same time, cryptochromes are known for their role in the negative feedback loop in the circadian clock. We measured gene expression of Cry1, Cry2 and Cry4 in the retina, muscle and brain of zebra finches over the circadian day to assess whether they showed any circadian rhythmicity. We hypothesized that retinal cryptochromes involved in magnetoreception should be expressed at a constant level over the circadian day, because birds use a light-dependent magnetic compass for orientation not only during migration, but also for spatial orientation tasks in their daily life. Cryptochromes serving in circadian tasks, on the other hand, are expected to be expressed in a rhythmic (circadian) pattern. Cry1 and Cry2 displayed a daily variation in the retina as expected for circadian clock genes, while Cry4 expressed at constant levels over time. We conclude that Cry4 is the most likely candidate magnetoreceptor of the light-dependent magnetic compass in birds.

KEYWORDS:

circadian clock; circadian rhythm; clock genes; magnetic compass; orientation

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