Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

NYU Biologists Find New Function For Pacemaker Neurons

Date:
February 2, 2005
Source:
New York University
Summary:
A study by New York University researchers reveals a new function for the nerve cells that regulate circadian rhythms of behavior in fruit flies.

A study by New York University researchers reveals a new function for the nerve cells that regulate circadian rhythms of behavior in fruit flies.

The nerve cells, called pacemaker neurons, contain a molecular clock that controls a 24-hour circadian rhythm in activity similar to the rhythms in sleep/wake cycles found in humans and many other organisms. It was previously known that pacemaker neurons receive visual signals to reset their molecular clocks, but scientists did not have any evidence that they transmitted information to their target cells, as most other neurons do.

The current study shows that pacemaker neurons do in fact transmit signals and are required for a rapid behavior, according to the paper, published in the January 20th issue of Neuron. The study was conducted by Esteban O. Mazzoni, a graduate student in NYU’s Biology Department, Biology Professor Claude Desplan, and Assistant Biology Professor Justin Blau. The finding suggests it may be possible to identify genes that can be used to treat problems such as sleep disorders and jet lag.

The researchers examined the role that pacemaker neurons play in helping Drosophila larvae avoid light. Drosophila is a species of fruit fly commonly used in biological research. Fruit fly larvae foraging for food avoid light, presumably to keep away from predators. Unlike adult Drosophila, the larvae only have one structure for gathering visual cues, called Bolwig’s Organ. This organ senses the amount of light in the environment and transmits that information to the pacemaker neurons to reset their molecular clocks.

In the experiments described by Mazzoni, Desplan, and Blau, fly larvae were placed in the center of a Petri dish with one side dark and the other illuminated. Normal larvae exhibited the natural behavior and clustered on the dark side. However, when the larvae had their pacemaker neurons disabled, they were as blind as larvae that had their light-sensing organs removed and distributed themselves evenly between the light and dark halves of the Petri dish.

Further experiments showed that, in addition to transmitting the light information, the pacemaker neurons also modulate the sensitivity of larvae to light, generating a circadian rhythm in visual sensitivity. The experiments revealed that fruit fly larvae are most sensitive to light at dawn and least sensitive toward dusk.

The study demonstrates that pacemaker neurons are doing much more than scientists had suspected. They not only relay visual signals to target cells, but are also act as filters, using their molecular clocks to adjust the intensity of the transmitted signal depending on the time of day.

Almost all of the genes that make up Drosophila’s molecular clock have counterparts with similar functions in mammals. Because of this similarity, it may be possible to identify genes in fruit flies that can be used to treat problems in people, such as sleep disorders and jet lag.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by New York University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

New York University. "NYU Biologists Find New Function For Pacemaker Neurons." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 February 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/02/050201104114.htm>.
New York University. (2005, February 2). NYU Biologists Find New Function For Pacemaker Neurons. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/02/050201104114.htm
New York University. "NYU Biologists Find New Function For Pacemaker Neurons." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/02/050201104114.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

How 'Yes Means Yes' Defines Sexual Assault

How 'Yes Means Yes' Defines Sexual Assault

Newsy (Sep. 29, 2014) Aimed at reducing sexual assaults on college campuses, California has adopted a new law changing the standard of consent for sexual activity. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists May Have Found An Early Sign Of Pancreatic Cancer

Scientists May Have Found An Early Sign Of Pancreatic Cancer

Newsy (Sep. 29, 2014) Researchers looked at 1,500 blood samples and determined people who developed pancreatic cancer had more branched chain amino acids. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Colo. Doctors See Cluster of Enterovirus Cases

Colo. Doctors See Cluster of Enterovirus Cases

AP (Sep. 29, 2014) Doctors at the Children's Hospital of Colorado say they have treated over 4,000 children with serious respiratory illnesses since August. Nine of the patients have shown distinct neurological symptoms, including limb weakness. (Sept. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dr.'s Unsure of Cause of Fast-Spreading Virus

Dr.'s Unsure of Cause of Fast-Spreading Virus

AP (Sep. 29, 2014) Doctors at the Children's Hospital of Colorado say they have treated over 4,000 children with serious respiratory illnesses since August. Nine of the patients have shown distinct neurological symptoms, including limb weakness. (Sept. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins