miR-124 Regulates the Phase of Drosophila Circadian Locomotor Behavior. Academic Article uri icon


  • UNLABELLED: Animals use circadian rhythms to anticipate daily environmental changes. Circadian clocks have a profound effect on behavior. In Drosophila, for example, brain pacemaker neurons dictate that flies are mostly active at dawn and dusk. miRNAs are small, regulatory RNAs (?22 nt) that play important roles in posttranscriptional regulation. Here, we identify miR-124 as an important regulator of Drosophila circadian locomotor rhythms. Under constant darkness, flies lacking miR-124 (miR-124(KO)) have a dramatically advanced circadian behavior phase. However, whereas a phase defect is usually caused by a change in the period of the circadian pacemaker, this is not the case in miR-124(KO) flies. Moreover, the phase of the circadian pacemaker in the clock neurons that control rhythmic locomotion is not altered either. Therefore, miR-124 modulates the output of circadian clock neurons rather than controlling their molecular pacemaker. Circadian phase is also advanced under temperature cycles, but a light/dark cycle partially corrects the defects in miR-124(KO) flies. Indeed, miR-124(KO) shows a normal evening phase under the latter conditions, but morning behavioral activity is suppressed. In summary, miR-124 controls diurnal activity and determines the phase of circadian locomotor behavior without affecting circadian pacemaker function. It thus provides a potent entry point to elucidate the mechanisms by which the phase of circadian behavior is determined. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: In animals, molecular circadian clocks control the timing of behavioral activities to optimize them with the day/night cycle. This is critical for their fitness and survival. The mechanisms by which the phase of circadian behaviors is determined downstream of the molecular pacemakers are not yet well understood. Recent studies indicate that miRNAs are important regulators of circadian outputs. We found that miR-124 shapes diurnal behavioral activity and has a striking impact on the phase of circadian locomotor behavior. Surprisingly, the period and phase of the neural circadian pacemakers driving locomotor rhythms are unaffected. Therefore, miR-124 is a critical modulator of the circadian output pathways that control circadian behavioral rhythms.

publication date

  • February 10, 2016