- Brain Awareness Week
Neural and genetic basis of circadian behavior
My lab is interested in understanding the neural mechanisms that regulate circadian rhythms, the daily patterns of physiology and behavior that are prominent in many species. We study the model system Drosophila, which exhibits robust daily rhythms in several behaviors, including locomotor activity. Genetic approaches in Drosophila have led to the identification of a number of key circadian rhythms genes, including several with conserved function in mammals. Much of this research has focused on understanding the molecular circadian clock, the cell-autonomous transcriptional feedback loops and post-translational modifications that generate ~24 hour molecular oscillations. In Drosophila and mammals, the central circadian clocks that control rhythmicity are located in neuronal groups within the brain. Yet, little is known about how the molecular clock regulates the output of these neurons to promote rhythmicity. We are interested in understanding the processes that occur downstream of the molecular clock to mediate circadian neuron function. I have previously demonstrated that a putative sodium leak channel, narrow abdomen (na), is an important component of circadian neuronal output in Drosophila. We are now using this system to further characterize the function and regulation of this unique channel, with a particular interest in determining whether NA is subject to circadian regulation. In addition, my lab is utilizing the molecular and genetic tools of Drosophila in order to identify new circadian rhythms genes, with a focus on genes likely to function in circadian neuronal output.