The neuropeptide PDF acts directly on evening pacemaker neurons to regulate multiple features of circadian behavior

Bridget C. Lear, Luoying Zhang, Ravi Allada

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


Discrete clusters of circadian clock neurons temporally organize daily behaviors such as sleep and wake. In Drosophila, a network of just 150 neurons drives two peaks of timed activity in the morning and evening. A subset of these neurons expresses the neuropeptide pigment dispersing factor (PDF), which is important for promoting morning behavior as well as maintaining robust free-running rhythmicity in constant conditions. Yet, how PDF acts on downstream circuits to mediate rhythmic behavior is unknown. Using circuit-directed rescue of PDF receptor mutants, we show that PDF targeting of just ∼30 non-PDF evening circadian neurons is sufficient to drive morning behavior. This function is not accompanied by large changes in core molecular oscillators in light-dark, indicating that PDF RECEPTOR likely regulates the output of these cells under these conditions. We find that PDF also acts on this focused set of non-PDF neurons to regulate both evening activity phase and period length, consistent with modest resetting effects on core oscillators. PDF likely acts on more distributed pacemaker neuron targets, including the PDF neurons themselves, to regulate rhythmic strength. Here we reveal defining features of the circuit-diagram for PDF peptide function in circadian behavior, revealing the direct neuronal targets of PDF as well as its behavioral functions at those sites. These studies define a key direct output circuit sufficient for multiple PDF dependent behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1000154
JournalPLoS biology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Neuroscience(all)


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