'Jet-lagged' fruit flies provide clues for body clock synchronisation

Jan 17, 2013

New research led by a team at Queen Mary, University of London, has found evidence of how daily changes in temperature affect the fruit fly's internal clock.

"A wide range of organisms, including insects and humans, have evolved an to regulate daily patterns of behaviour, such as sleep, appetite, and attention," explains Professor Ralf Stanewsky, senior study author from Queen Mary's School of Biological and .

"Research on animal and human clocks shows that they are fine tuned by natural and man-made time cues, for example the daily changes of light and temperature, alarm clocks and 'noise-pollution'. Understanding the principles of clock synchronisation could be useful in developing treatments against the negative effects of sleep-disorders and shift-work. This research has many implications because it extends our knowledge of how the environment influences ."

Scientists have a good understanding of how light affects the , also known as the circadian clock. Specially evolved cells in the brain contain the circadian clock, which needs to be synchronised with the natural environment every day to help them run on time.

In this new study, the researchers made groups of 'jet-lagged' by exposing them to daily temperature changes reflecting warmer or colder climates to understand how temperature affects the .

The team discovered that a group of 'dorsal clock cells' found in the back of the fly's brain was more important for clock-synchronisation at warmer temperatures. But a group of ventral clock cells found further to the front of the brain played an important role at the cooler temperature range. In addition to their clock function, these cells also act like a thermometer, being more active at certain temperatures.

The research also shows that removing the Cryptochrome, an important component in synchronising the clock to the daily light changes, leads to the flies being more sensitive to temperature changes. This could help to explain why daily light changes, which are a more reliable time cue compared to the daily temperature fluctuations, are the dominant signal in nature for synchronising the clock.

This study is reported today in the journal Current Biology.

Explore further: Do sexually transmitted diseases drive variation in mammalian immunity?

More information: 'Cryptochrome antagonizes synchronization of Drosophila's circadian clock to temperature cycles' will be published in the journal Current Biology on Thursday 17 January.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Researchers image and measure tubulin transport in cilia

25 minutes ago

Defective cilia can lead to a host of diseases and conditions in the human body—from rare, inherited bone malformations to blindness, male infertility, kidney disease and obesity. Scientists knew that somehow ...

Researchers find unusually elastic protein

3 hours ago

Scientists at Heidelberg University have discovered an unusually elastic protein in one of the most ancient groups of animals, the over 600-million-year-old cnidarians. The protein is a part of the "weapons system" that the ...

How malaria-spreading mosquitoes can tell you're home

Jan 22, 2015

Females of the malaria-spreading mosquito tend to obtain their blood meals within human dwellings. Indeed, this mosquito, Anopheles gambiae, spends much of its adult life indoors where it is constantly expose ...

Study uncovers secrets of a clump-dissolving protein

Jan 22, 2015

Workhorse molecules called heat-shock proteins contribute to refolding proteins that were once misfolded and clumped, causing such disorders as Parkinson's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and Alzheimer's ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.