Academics discover variation in circadian clock protein in fruit flies
3D structure of Cryptochrome—a blue light photoreceptor; a natural variation in a single amino acid shown in green, has impact on behaviour and development of fruitflies, and is driven by natural selection
The circadian clock is a molecular network that generates daily rhythms, and is present in both plants and animals.
A research team from the Department of Genetics led by Dr Eran Tauber has studied genetic variation in circadian clock genes in wild populations of the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster – and has discovered that their genes change and adapt depending on environmental conditions, altering their circadian clock.
The research focuses on examining a protein called Cryptochrome (CRY), a blue light photoreceptor which synchronises the circadian clock of the fruit fly with the environmental light-dark cycle. CRY is involved in circadian clock functioning in both plants and animals, including humans.
Adaptive variations have resulted in two versions of the CRY protein existing in fruit flies, both with a different amino acid present – these amino acids affect the circadian clock of the fruit fly.
Using this kind of experimental evolution allowed the team to demonstrate that this variation is actively maintained by the species.
The paper, which has been published in PLOS ONE, a peer-reviewed international online publication, can be read here.