Indexed on: 22 Nov '93Published on: 22 Nov '93Published in: Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society
Photoreceptors of the fly's compound eye generally show no very obvious daily or circadian rhythms, a lack which prompted us to examine whether their function might be regulated not in the retina, but at the site of transmission in the first visual neuropile, or lamina. Here, photoreceptor terminals (R1-R6) are reciprocally interconnected with one class of lamina monopolar cell, L2: L2 receives input from R1-R6 at so-called tetrad synapses, and in turn is presynaptic to R1-R6 at feedback synapses. We have calculated the mean frequencies of these synaptic profiles in electron micrographs of single lamina sections. L2 feedback synapses were more numerous at night than during the day, whereas the number of tetrads showed only small modulations between day and night. These changes persisted amongst feedback synapses in flies held in constant darkness, and are thus circadian. In contrast to the slow modulations during a 24 h cycle, the number of L2 feedback synapses after 1 h light pulse in flies held in constant darkness showed no clear change, whereas it increased the number of tetrad profiles. These findings support the occurrence of cyclical daily and circadian changes amongst the two lamina synaptic populations, with tetrads showing rather weak modulations in frequency, but more pronounced responses to the light pulse than feedback synapses.