Abstracts relating to research on fruit flies

PLoS Genet. 2014 Dec 4;10(12):e1004804.

Genetic analysis of circadian responses to low frequency electromagnetic fields in Drosophila melanogaster.

Fedele G, Edwards MD, Bhutani S, Hares JM, Murbach M, Green EW, Dissel S, Hastings MH, Rosato E, Kyriacou CP.

The blue-light sensitive photoreceptor cryptochrome (CRY) may act as a magneto-receptor through formation of radical pairs involving a triad of tryptophans. Previous genetic analyses of behavioral responses of Drosophila to electromagnetic fields using conditioning, circadian and geotaxis assays have lent some support to the radical pair model (RPM). Here, we describe a new method that generates consistent and reliable circadian responses to electromagnetic fields that differ substantially from those already reported. We used the Schuderer apparatus to isolate Drosophila from local environmental variables, and observe extremely low frequency (3 to 50 Hz) field-induced changes in two locomotor phenotypes, circadian period and activity levels. These field-induced phenotypes are CRY- and blue-light dependent, and are correlated with enhanced CRY stability. Mutational analysis of the terminal tryptophan of the triad hypothesised to be indispensable to the electron transfer required by the RPM reveals that this residue is not necessary for field responses. We observe that deletion of the CRY C-terminus dramatically attenuates the EMF-induced period changes, whereas the N-terminus underlies the hyperactivity. Most strikingly, an isolated CRY C-terminus that does not encode the Tryptophan triad nor the FAD binding domain is nevertheless able to mediate a modest EMF-induced period change. Finally, we observe that hCRY2, but not hCRY1, transformants can detect EMFs, suggesting that hCRY2 is blue light-responsive. In contrast, when we examined circadian molecular cycles in wild-type mouse suprachiasmatic nuclei slices under blue light, there was no field effect. Our results are therefore not consistent with the classical Trp triad-mediated RPM and suggest that CRYs act as blue-light/EMF sensors depending on trans-acting factors that are present in particular cellular environments.


Nat Commun. 2014 Jul 14;5:4391.

An electromagnetic field disrupts negative geotaxis in Drosophila via a CRY-dependent pathway.

Fedele G, Green EW, Rosato E, Kyriacou CP.
Many higher animals have evolved the ability to use the Earth's magnetic field, particularly for orientation. Drosophila melanogaster also respond to electromagnetic fields (EMFs), although the reported effects are quite modest. Here we report that negative geotaxis in flies, scored as climbing, is disrupted by a static EMF, and this is mediated by cryptochrome (CRY), the blue-light circadian photoreceptor. CRYs may sense EMFs via formation of radical pairs of electrons requiring photoactivation of flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD) bound near a triad of Trp residues, but mutation of the terminal Trp in the triad maintains EMF responsiveness in climbing. In contrast, deletion of the CRY C terminus disrupts EMF responses, indicating that it plays an important signalling role. CRY expression in a subset of clock neurons, or the photoreceptors, or the antennae, is sufficient to mediate negative geotaxis and EMF sensitivity. Climbing therefore provides a robust and reliable phenotype for studying EMF responses in Drosophila.


Nat Methods. 2014 Mar;11(3):222-3.

A Drosophila RNAi collection is subject to dominant phenotypic effects.

Green EW, Fedele G, Giorgini F, Kyriacou CP.


PLoS Biol. 2009 Apr 7;7(4):e1000086.

Cryptochrome mediates light-dependent magnetosensitivity of Drosophila's circadian clock.

Yoshii T, Ahmad M, Helfrich-Förster C.
Since 1960, magnetic fields have been discussed as Zeitgebers for circadian clocks, but the mechanism by which clocks perceive and process magnetic information has remained unknown. Recently, the radical-pair model involving light-activated photoreceptors as magnetic field sensors has gained considerable support, and the blue-light photoreceptor cryptochrome (CRY) has been proposed as a suitable molecule to mediate such magnetosensitivity. Since CRY is expressed in the circadian clock neurons and acts as a critical photoreceptor of Drosophila's clock, we aimed to test the role of CRY in magnetosensitivity of the circadian clock. In response to light, CRY causes slowing of the clock, ultimately leading to arrhythmic behavior. We expected that in the presence of applied magnetic fields, the impact of CRY on clock rhythmicity should be altered. Furthermore, according to the radical-pair hypothesis this response should be dependent on wavelength and on the field strength applied. We tested the effect of applied static magnetic fields on the circadian clock and found that flies exposed to these fields indeed showed enhanced slowing of clock rhythms. This effect was maximal at 300 muT, and reduced at both higher and lower field strengths. Clock response to magnetic fields was present in blue light, but absent under red-light illumination, which does not activate CRY. Furthermore, cry(b) and cry(OUT) mutants did not show any response, and flies overexpressing CRY in the clock neurons exhibited an enhanced response to the field. We conclude that Drosophila's circadian clock is sensitive to magnetic fields and that this sensitivity depends on light activation of CRY and on the applied field strength, consistent with the radical pair mechanism. CRY is widespread throughout biological systems and has been suggested as receptor for magnetic compass orientation in migratory birds. The present data establish the circadian clock of Drosophila as a model system for CRY-dependent magnetic sensitivity. Furthermore, given that CRY occurs in multiple tissues of Drosophila, including those potentially implicated in fly orientation, future studies may yield insights that could be applicable to the magnetic compass of migratory birds and even to potential magnetic field effects in humans.