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  1. Most organisms on Earth possess an internal timekeeping system which ensures that bodily processes such as sleep, wakefulness or digestion take place at the right time. These precise daily rhythms are kept in check by a master clock in the brain. There, thousands of neurons – some of which carrying an internal ‘molecular clock’ – connect to each other through structures known as synapses. Exactly how the resulting network is organised to support circadian timekeeping remains unclear. To explore this question, Shafer, Gutierrez et al. focused on fruit flies, as recent efforts have systematically mapped every neuron and synaptic connection in the brain of this model organism. Analysing available data from the hemibrain connectome project at Janelia revealed that that the neurons with the most important timekeeping roles were in fact forming the fewest synapses within the network. In addition, neurons without internal molecular clocks mediated strong synaptic connections between those that did, suggesting that ‘clockless’ cells still play an integral role in circadian timekeeping. With this research, Shafer, Gutierrez et al. provide unexpected insights into the organisation of the master body clock. Better understanding the networks that underpin circadian rhythms will help to grasp how and why these aremore »disrupted in obesity, depression and Alzheimer’s disease.« less
  2. The problem of entrainment is central to circadian biology. In this regard, Drosophila has been an important model system. Owing to the simplicity of its nervous system and the availability of powerful genetic tools, the system has shed significant light on the molecular and neural underpinnings of entrainment. However, much remains to be learned regarding the molecular and physiological mechanisms underlying this important phenomenon. Under cyclic light/dark conditions, Drosophila melanogaster displays crepuscular patterns of locomotor activity with one peak anticipating dawn and the other anticipating dusk. These peaks are characterized through an estimation of their phase relative to the environmental light cycle and the extent of their anticipation of light transitions. In Drosophila chronobiology, estimations of phases are often subjective, and anticipation indices vary significantly between studies. Though there is increasing interest in building flexible analysis tools in the field, none incorporates objective measures of Drosophila activity peaks in combination with the analysis of fly activity/sleep in the same program. To this end, we have developed PHASE, a MATLAB-based program that is simple and easy to use and (i) supports the visualization and analysis of activity and sleep under entrainment, (ii) allows analysis of both activity and sleep parameters withinmore »user-defined windows within a diurnal cycle, (iii) uses a smoothing filter for the objective identification of peaks of activity (and therefore can be used to quantitatively characterize them), and (iv) offers a series of analyses for the assessment of behavioral anticipation of environmental transitions.

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  3. Abstract

    Significant recent evidence suggests that metabolism is intricately linked to the regulation and dysfunction of complex cellular and physiological responses ranging from altered metabolic programs in cancers and aging to circadian rhythms and molecular clocks. While the metabolic pathways and their fundamental control mechanisms are well established, the precise cellular mechanisms underpinning, for example, enzymatic pathway control, substrate preferences or metabolic rates, remain far less certain. Comprehensive, continuous metabolic studies on model organisms, such as the fruit flyDrosophila melanogaster, may provide a critical tool for deciphering these complex physiological responses. Here, we describe the development of a high-resolution calorimeter, which combines sensitive thermometry with optical imaging to concurrently perform measurements of the metabolic rate of ten individual flies, in real-time, with ~100 nW resolution. Using this calorimeter we have measured the mass-specific metabolic rates of flies of different genotypes, ages, and flies fed with different diets. This powerful new approach enables systematic studies of the metabolic regulation related to cellular and physiological function and disease mechanisms.