Circadian control of dendrite morphology in the visual system of Drosophila melanogaster.

Research paper by Paweł P Weber, Elzbieta E Kula-Eversole, Elzbieta E Pyza

Indexed on: 29 Jan '09Published on: 29 Jan '09Published in: PloS one


In the first optic neuropil (lamina) of the fly's visual system, monopolar cells L1 and L2 and glia show circadian rhythms in morphological plasticity. They change their size and shape during the day and night. The most pronounced changes have been detected in circadian size of the L2 axons. Looking for a functional significance of the circadian plasticity observed in axons, we examined the morphological plasticity of the L2 dendrites. They extend from axons and harbor postsynaptic sites of tetrad synaptic contacts from the photoreceptor terminals.The plasticity of L2 dendrites was evaluated by measuring an outline of the L2 dendritic trees. These were from confocal images of cross sections of L2 cells labeled with GFP. They were in wild-type and clock mutant flies held under different light conditions and sacrified at different time points. We found that the L2 dendrites are longest at the beginning of the day in both males and females. This rhythm observed under a day/night regime (LD) was maintained in constant darkness (DD) but not in continuous light (LL). This rhythm was not present in the arrhythmic per(01) mutant in LD or in DD. In the clock photoreceptor cry(b) mutant the rhythm was maintained but its pattern was different than that observed in wild-type flies.The results obtained showed that the L2 dendrites exhibit circadian structural plasticity. Their morphology is controlled by the per gene-dependent circadian clock. The L2 dendrites are longest at the beginning of the day when the daytime tetrad presynaptic sites are most numerous and L2 axons are swollen. The presence of the rhythm, but with a different pattern in cry(b) mutants in LD and DD indicates a new role of cry in the visual system. The new role is in maintaining the circadian pattern of changes of the L2 dendrite length and shape.