Study of the circadian neural network in Drosophila

Circadian clocks are extraordinarily robust systems; they are able to keep time accurately without any timing cues. In addition, and despite their biochemical nature they are resilient to big variations in environmental conditions (i.e. temperature). This is likely the result of possessing multiple layers of regulation, which assure accurate timekeeping and buffering of stochastic changes into the molecular clockwork. Recent evidence suggests that these layers of regulation extend even beyond the single cell level. Circadian neurons in the brain are organized in a network that is believed to synchronize the individual neuronal oscillators thereby contributing to a coherent and robust behavioral output. Therefore an important part of the efforts in our lab is to understand how the molecular clocks in individual neurons interact in this circadian network in order to generate coherent and robust circadian rhythms.

For doing so, we have developed an important number of genetic, molecular and neural tools that allow us to perturb the molecular clock in real time (in alive flies as well as in brains in culture) and follow the molecular (by the use of luciferase and fluorescent reporters) and behavioral responses.