Control of daily transcript oscillations in Drosophila by light and the circadian clock.
The transcriptional circuits of circadian clocks control physiological and behavioral rhythms. Light may affect such overt rhythms in two ways: (1) by entraining the clock circuits and (2) via clock-independent molecular pathways. In this study we examine the relationship between autonomous transcript oscillations and light-driven transcript responses. Transcript profiles of wild-type and arrhythmic mutant Drosophila were recorded both in the presence of an environmental photocycle and in constant darkness. Systematic autonomous oscillations in the 12- to 48-h period range were detectable only in wild-type flies and occurred preferentially at the circadian period length. However, an extensive program of light-driven expression was confirmed in arrhythmic mutant flies. Many light-responsive transcripts are preferentially expressed in the compound eyes and the phospholipase C component of phototransduction, NORPA (no receptor potential), is required for their light-dependent regulation. Although there is evidence for the existence of multiple molecular clock circuits in cyanobacteria, protists, plants, and fungi, Drosophila appears to possess only one such system. The sustained photic expression responses identified here are partially coupled to the circadian clock and may reflect a mechanism for flies to modulate functions such as visual sensitivity and synaptic transmission in response to seasonal changes in photoperiod.