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Investigating the logic of circadian organization in Drosophila melanogaster

Principal Supervisor: Dr Ezio Rosato, Dept. of Genetics and Genome Biology

Co-supervisor: Prof Bambos Kyriacou, Dept. of Genetics and Genome Biology

PhD project title: Investigating the logic of circadian organization in Drosophila melanogaster

University of Registration: University of Leicester

Project outline:

The circadian clock is an endogenous mechanism that synchronizes almost all behaviour and physiology with the Earth’s 24 hour environmental cycles. Predictably, the circadian clock has a huge impact on health and quality of life. Dysfunction of the clock not only generates temporal disorientation and sleep problems, but also is involved in pathologies such as obesity, mental illness, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Clearly, it is extremely important to achieve a comprehensive understanding of how the circadian clock works [reviewed in 1].

The fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster is an ideal organism for the study of circadian rhythms, its clock shares its design and molecular components with that of mammals but it is much easier to manipulate.

We have discovered that different clock neurons in the fly tend to cycle with different speeds and that only their mutual synchronization keeps the fly running with a common 24 h cycle [2]. Consequently, we cannot understand the oscillator by focusing only on the regulation of genes and molecules in single neurons but we must investigate the organization of the clock network as a whole.

This proposal aims to study the principles of how the different clock neurons interact together to generate rhythmic behaviour. We will develop novel markers of neuronal activity and use them to study circadian connectivity and synchrony among neurons. Moreover, we will develop new mutants and mosaics using CRISPR/CAS9 genome-editing. We anticipate that this work will generate a novel model of the circadian clock.


  1. Ozkaya & Rosato (2012) The circadian clock of the fly: a neurogenetics journey through time. Advances in Genetics, 77: 79-123.
  2. Dissel S, Hansen CN, Ozkaya O, Hemsley M, Kyriacou CP, Rosato E. (2014) The logic of circadian organization in Drosophila, Curr Biol, 24: 2257-2266

BBSRC Strategic Research Priority: Molecules, cells and systems

Techniques that will be undertaken during the project:

Drosophila genetics and behaviour, imaging techniques, molecular biology, biosensors, advanced statistics and bioinformatics. These techniques will provide comprehensive and multidisciplinary training including quantitative skills.

Contact: Dr Ezio Rosato, University of Leicester