Real time, in vivo measurement of neuronal and peripheral clocks in Drosophila melanogaster

October 2022
Full Article
Johnstone Peter S
Ogueta M.
Akay O.
Top I.
Syed S.
Stanewsky R.
Top D.

Circadian clocks are highly conserved transcriptional regulators that control ~24 hr oscillations in gene expression, physiological function, and behavior. Circadian clocks exist in almost every tissue and are thought to control tissue-specific gene expression and function, synchronized by the brain clock. Many disease states are associated with loss of circadian regulation. How and when circadian clocks fail during pathogenesis remains largely unknown because it is currently difficult to monitor tissue-specific clock function in intact organisms. Here, we developed a method to directly measure the transcriptional oscillation of distinct neuronal and peripheral clocks in live, intact Drosophila, which we term Locally Activatable BioLuminescence, or LABL. Using this method, we observed that specific neuronal and peripheral clocks exhibit distinct transcriptional properties. Loss of the receptor for PDF, a circadian neurotransmitter critical for the function of the brain clock, disrupts circadian locomotor activity but not all tissue-specific circadian clocks. We found that, while peripheral clocks in non-neuronal tissues were less stable after the loss of PDF signaling, they continued to oscillate. We also demonstrate that distinct clocks exhibit differences in their loss of oscillatory amplitude or their change in period, depending on their anatomical location, mutation, or fly age. Our results demonstrate that LABL is an effective tool that allows rapid, affordable, and direct real-time monitoring of individual clocks in vivo.