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Circadian clock of Drosophila montana is adapted to high variation in summer day lengths and temperatures prevailing at high latitudes

Kauranen, Hannele, Ala-Honkola, Outi, Kankare, Maaria, Hoikkala, Anneli
Journal of insect physiology 2016 v.89 pp. 9-18
Drosophila melanogaster, autumn, circadian rhythm, climate, diapause, females, genes, insect physiology, insects, latitude, locomotion, night temperature, photoperiod, seasonal variation, summer, Finland
Photoperiodic regulation of the circadian rhythms in insect locomotor activity has been studied in several species, but seasonal entrainment of these rhythms is still poorly understood. We have traced the entrainment of activity rhythm of northern Drosophila montana flies in a climate chamber mimicking the photoperiods and day and night temperatures that the flies encounter in northern Finland during the summer. The experiment was started by transferring freshly emerged females into the chamber in early and late summer conditions to obtain both non-diapausing and diapausing females for the studies. The locomotor activity of the females and daily changes in the expression levels of two core circadian clock genes, timeless and period, in their heads were measured at different times of summer. The study revealed several features in fly rhythmicity that are likely to help the flies to cope with high variation in the day length and temperature typical to northern summers. First, both the non-diapausing and the diapausing females showed evening activity, which decreased towards the short day length as observed in the autumn in nature. Second, timeless and period genes showed concordant daily oscillations and seasonal shifts in their expression level in both types of females. Contrary to Drosophila melanogaster, oscillation profiles of these genes were similar to each other in all conditions, including the extremely long days in early summer and the cool temperatures in late summer, and their peak expression levels were not locked to lights-off transition in any photoperiod. Third, the diapausing females were less active than the non-diapausing ones, in spite of their younger age. Overall, the study showed that D. montana clock functions well under long day conditions, and that both the photoperiod and the daily temperature cycles are important zeitgebers for seasonal changes in the circadian rhythm of this species.