Neurobiology and Genetics

Pamela Menegazzi

Research Interest

Animals need to adjust their lifestyle to the environment they live in. Organisms inhabiting equatorial or subtropical regions experience moderate changes in photoperiod throughout the year and have to cope with warm/hot temperatures. In temperate or even subpolar regions, animals experience instead very dramatic photoperiodic changes, ranging from 24 hours of light per day in summer to no daylight in winter, and need to survive at very low temperatures. How can living organisms cope with such a broad range of environmental conditions? Such adjustments are driven by endogenous timekeeping mechanisms which allow animals to synchronize with the external world and anticipate cyclic changes in the environment (e.g. seasons, day night cycles). Among these endogenous oscillators, the circadian clock ticks with a periodicity of around 24 hours. The core components of the circadian clock molecular machinery are transcriptional regulators: fluctuations in the environmental conditions can influence the oscillation of core clock proteins and, therefore, the expression of clock regulated genes.

I aim at understanding the link between the molecular oscillators that are at the basis of this timekeeping mechanism and the downstream pathways they influence. I will direct my future research towards the study of the mechanisms underlying photoperiodic and seasonal adaptation. Given the great variety of genetic tools available in D. melanogaster, I will use this fruit fly as a primary model.