Current Research Projects

Current Research Projects

Molecular Cogs

Proteins from Drosophila melanogaster separated on acrylamide gel and stained with Coomassie Blue

The use of animal models is a powerful approach to understand fundamental biological processes.  The fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster is an ideal model organism for the study of circadian rhythms because the clock mechanism shares the same design and molecular components with mammals.

The clock is an endogenous and self-sustained process driven by the interplay of many proteins.  Among these, there are molecules whose function is to receive and integrate environmental cues, and pass on this information to other clock proteins.  The blue-light photopigment CRYPTOCHROME (CRY) is one such molecule, but in some cells, CRY also performs as a core clock protein independent from light.  A significant part of our research is to understand how CRY works by using genetics and molecular and cell biology tools.


The Rhythmic Brain
Lateral Neurons
Large lateral neurons showing in green the circadian relevant neuropeptide PDF and in red nuclear TIMELESS protein

An important role of the circadian clock is to generate rhythmic behaviours, for instance the daily sleep-wake cycle is one of them. 
One important and general question concerning behaviour is: how is it generated? Behaviour manifests itself as a motor response (complex or simple) which originates from the nervous system after sensory perception and integration.

We know the neurons responsible for orchestrating circadian behaviours in Drosophila but we do not quite know how these are organised in terms of circuits and how these circuits interact within the circadian network.  We are investigating how circadian information flows through the network by correlating behaviour, before and after manipulation of discrete groups of circadian neurons, to the cycling of clock cell under normal conditions and after perturbation.  Our next goal is to reduce the size of those groups of neurons that are manipulated together, theoretically to the limit of being able to manipulate one cell at the time.

We also want to improve the way in which we measure rhythms.  Currently, the rhythmicity of a clock cell is assessed based on the cycling of the expression of a few clock genes.  We think this approach might be biased and we are interested in developing tools to measure physiological rhythms at the level of neurons.  Finally, when studying circuits, it is important to show which cells are connected physically and functionally and we are planning strategies for synaptic tracers.


Marine Clocks

Antarctic krill:Euphausia superba

In marine animals more rhythmic components (circadian, circa tidal, circa lunar, circa annual) might be present at once. This offers a unique opportunity to study whether a single or multiple clocks have evolved. Accordingly, this can elucidate how a single clock can generate outputs with multiple periodicities or how different clocks can co-exist and interact one with another.

We are particularly interested in krill, shrimp-like crustacean that occupy a central position in the food chain of the Oceans.  Krill convert phytoplankton into precious animal proteins that are consumed by high predators such as fish, birds and marine mammals.  The enormous biomass of Arctic krill, Meganyctiphanes norvegica, and even more so of Antarctic krill, Euphausia superba, elects these two as keystone species in the Northern and Southern hemispheres, respectively.

They both show rhythmic and synchronised behaviours with periodicities ranging from circadian (Daily Vertical Migration), to circa lunar (moult-spawning cycle), to circa annual (sexual maturation and reproduction). We believe there are biological clocks underlying those rhythms and we would like to characterise them, starting from the circadian clock.  Using molecular biology tools, we have identified several circadian genes in Meganyctiphanes and Euphausia.  We are currently engaged in characterising their expression.


Research Links

Search PubMed at the US National Library of Medicine for this author: Dr E. Rosato
Search Leicester Research ArchiveDr E. Rosato
Search Google ScholarDr E. Rosato





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Department of Genetics
University of Leicester

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Professor Alison Goodall

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