A novel period mutation implicating nuclear export in temperature compensation of the Drosophila circadian clock

Current Biology
December 2022
Full Article
Giesecke A
Johnstone PS
Lamaze A
Landskron J
Atay E
Chen KF
Wolf E
Top D.
Stanewsky R.

Circadian clocks are self-sustained molecular oscillators controlling daily changes of behavioral activity and physiology. For functional reliability and precision, the frequency of these molecular oscillations must be stable at different environmental temperatures, known as "temperature compensation." Despite being an intrinsic property of all circadian clocks, this phenomenon is not well understood at the molecular level. Here, we use behavioral and molecular approaches to characterize a novel mutation in the period (per) clock gene of Drosophila melanogaster, which alters a predicted nuclear export signal (NES) of the PER protein and affects temperature compensation. We show that this new perI530A allele leads to progressively longer behavioral periods and clock oscillations with increasing temperature in both clock neurons and peripheral clock cells. While the mutant PERI530A protein shows normal circadian fluctuations and post-translational modifications at cool temperatures, increasing temperatures lead to both severe amplitude dampening and hypophosphorylation of PERI530A. We further show that PERI530A displays reduced repressor activity at warmer temperatures, presumably because it cannot inactivate the transcription factor CLOCK (CLK), indicated by temperature-dependent altered CLK post-translational modification in perI530A flies. With increasing temperatures, nuclear accumulation of PERI530A within clock neurons is increased, suggesting that wild-type PER is exported out of the nucleus at warm temperatures. Downregulating the nuclear export factor CRM1 also leads to temperature-dependent changes of behavioral rhythms, suggesting that the PER NES and the nuclear export of clock proteins play an important role in temperature compensation of the Drosophila circadian clock.