Neurobiology and Genetics

CInCHRON - Comparative Insect Chronobiology


Chronobiology is the study of biological rhythms. The best understood cycles are those with circadian 24 hour periods that modulate the temporal dynamics of physiology and behaviour of all higher organisms and some bacteria. Four model organisms have been widely used to study the underlying biology of circadian clocks, Cyanobacteria, the fungus Neurospora, the fruitfly Drosophila, and the mouse. CINCHRON is an integrated European centre of excellence for the research training of researchers in the emerging multidisciplinary field of Comparative INsect CHRONobiology. The 2017 Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology was awarded jointly to three of our colleagues, Jeffrey Hall and Michael Rosbash (both at Brandeis University, Boston, USA) and Michael Young (Rockefeller University, New York, USA) for their work on the molecular dissection of the circadian clock in Drosophila.  Our warmest congratulations to these outstanding fly molecular geneticists for their achievements, which is particularly heartfelt because seven of the principle investigators of CINCHRON have worked and published with Hall and Rosbash. Insect clocks, both circadian and seasonal, are vital for adaptation to the environment and recent global patterns of climate change mean that insect pests and vectors of disease are expanding their ranges into Europe. Consequently there is an urgent need to study the circadian clocks of these insects and how they synchronise to the environment. CINCHRON will contribute to the integration and cohesion of future European research efforts in solving pure and applied biological problems.

Host Institution: Wuerzburg University
Supervisor: Prof Charlotte Helfrich-Foerster

Project 1: Seasonal clock in D. littoralis
Objectives: To discover the role played by the circadian clock in night-length measurement and induction of diapause in the northern European fruifly D. littoralis. The role and distribution of clock proteins and relevant clock-related neuropeptides will be studied under different photoperiodic and temperature conditions and mutagenesis (CRISPR/Cas9) of canonical clock genes will be used to examine whether clock genes measure night-length (which mediates diapause).

Project 2: Seasonal clock in pea aphids
Objectives: To discover the role played by the circadian clock in the induction of diapause in the pea aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum. Circadian behaviour will be characterised as will neuronal clock gene expression both temporally and spatially. CRISPR/Cas9 mutagenesis will be used to investigate whether clock mutations disrupt diapause.