Loss of circadian clock function decreases reproductive fitness in males of Drosophila melanogaster

February 2002
Beaver LM
Gvakharia BO
Vollintine TS
Hege DM
Stanewsky R
Giebultowicz JM

Circadian coordination of life functions is believed to contribute to an organism's fitness; however, such contributions have not been convincingly demonstrated in any animal. The most significant measure of fitness is the reproductive output of the individual and species. Here we examined the consequences of loss of clock function on reproductive fitness in Drosophila melanogaster with mutated period (per0), timeless(tim0), cycle (cyc0), and Clock (ClkJrk) genes. Single mating among couples with clock-deficient phenotypes resulted in ≈40% fewer progeny compared with wild-type flies, because of a decreased number of eggs laid and a greater rate of unfertilized eggs. Male contribution to this phenotype was demonstrated by a decrease in reproductive capacity among per0 and tim0 males mated with wild-type females. The important role of clock genes for reproductive fitness was confirmed by reversal of the low-fertility phenotype in flies with rescued per or tim function. Males lacking a functional clock showed a significant decline in the quantity of sperm released from the testes to seminal vesicles, and these tissues displayed rhythmic and autonomous expression of clock genes. By combining molecular and physiological approaches, we identified a circadian clock in the reproductive system and defined its role in the sperm release that promotes reproductive fitness in D. melanogaster.