Quasimodo mediates daily and acute light effects on Drosophila clock neuron excitability

Buhl E
Bradlaugh A
Ogueta M
Chen KF
Stanewsky R
Hodge JJ

We have characterized a light-input pathway regulating Drosophila clock neuron excitability. The molecular clock drives rhythmic electrical excitability of clock neurons, and we show that the recently discovered light-input factor Quasimodo (Qsm) regulates this variation, presumably via an Na+, K+, Cl− cotransporter (NKCC) and the Shaw K+ channel (dKV3.1). Because of light-dependent degradation of the clock protein Timeless (Tim), constant illumination (LL) leads to a breakdown of molecular and behavioral rhythms. Both overexpression (OX) and knockdown (RNAi) of qsm, NKCC, or Shaw led to robust LL rhythmicity. Whole-cell recordings of the large ventral lateral neurons (l-LNv) showed that altering Qsm levels reduced the daily variation in neuronal activity: qsmOX led to a constitutive less active, night-like state, and qsmRNAi led to a more active, day-like state. Qsm also affected daily changes in K+ currents and the GABA reversal potential, suggesting a role in modifying membrane currents and GABA responses in a daily fashion, potentially modulating light arousal and input to the clock. When directly challenged with blue light, wild-type l-LNvs responded with increased firing at night and no net response during the day, whereas altering Qsm, NKKC, or Shaw levels abolished these day/night differences. Finally, coexpression of ShawOX and NKCCRNAi in a qsm mutant background restored LL-induced behavioral arrhythmicity and wild-type neuronal activity patterns, suggesting that the three genes operate in the same pathway. We propose that Qsm affects both daily and acute light effects in l-LNvs probably acting on Shaw and NKCC.