Transplanted Drosophila excretory tubules maintain circadian clock cycling out of phase with the host.

Current Biology
January 2000
Full Article
Giebultowicz JM
Stanewsky R
Hall JC
Hege DM

Circadian rhythms in behaviors and physiological processes are driven by conserved molecular mechanisms involving the rhythmic expression of clock genes in the brains of animals [1]. The persistence of similar molecular rhythms in peripheral tissues in vitro 2 and 3 suggests that these tissues contain self-sustained circadian clocks that may be linked to rhythmic physiological functions. It is not known how brain and peripheral clocks are organized into a synchronized timing system; however, it has been assumed that peripheral clocks submit to a master clock in the brain. To address this matter we examined the expression of two clock genes, period (per) and timeless (tim), in host and transplanted abdominal organs of Drosophila. We found that excretory organs in tissue culture display free-running, light-sensitive oscillations in per and tim gene activity indicating that they house self-sustained circadian clocks. To test for humoral factors, we monitored cycling of the TIM protein in excretory tubules transplanted into host flies entrained to an opposite light–dark cycle. We show that the clock protein in the donor tubules cycled out of phase with that in the host tubules, indicating that different organs may cycle independently, despite sharing the same hormonal milieu. We suggest that one way to achieve circadian coordination of physiological sub-systems in higher animals may be through the direct entrainment of light-sensitive clocks by environmental signals.