Achilles-Mediated and Sex-Specific Regulation of Circadian mRNA Rhythms in Drosophila

Jiajia Li, Renee Yin Yu, Farida Emran, Brian E. Chen, Michael E. Hughes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The circadian clock is an evolutionarily conserved mechanism that generates the rhythmic expression of downstream genes. The core circadian clock drives the expression of clock-controlled genes, which in turn play critical roles in carrying out many rhythmic physiological processes. Nevertheless, the molecular mechanisms by which clock output genes orchestrate rhythmic signals from the brain to peripheral tissues are largely unknown. Here we explored the role of one rhythmic gene, Achilles, in regulating the rhythmic transcriptome in the fly head. Achilles is a clock-controlled gene in Drosophila that encodes a putative RNA-binding protein. Achilles expression is found in neurons throughout the fly brain using fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH), and legacy data suggest it is not expressed in core clock neurons. Together, these observations argue against a role for Achilles in regulating the core clock. To assess its impact on circadian mRNA rhythms, we performed RNA sequencing (RNAseq) to compare the rhythmic transcriptomes of control flies and those with diminished Achilles expression in all neurons. Consistent with previous studies, we observe dramatic upregulation of immune response genes upon knock-down of Achilles. Furthermore, many circadian mRNAs lose their rhythmicity in Achilles knock-down flies, suggesting that a subset of the rhythmic transcriptome is regulated either directly or indirectly by Achilles. These Achilles-mediated rhythms are observed in genes involved in immune function and in neuronal signaling, including Prosap, Nemy and Jhl-21. A comparison of RNAseq data from control flies reveals that only 42.7% of clock-controlled genes in the fly brain are rhythmic in both males and females. As mRNA rhythms of core clock genes are largely invariant between the sexes, this observation suggests that sex-specific mechanisms are an important, and heretofore under-appreciated, regulator of the rhythmic transcriptome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-143
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Biological Rhythms
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2019


  • Achilles (Achl)
  • RNA sequencing (RNAseq)
  • circadian rhythms
  • clock-controlled genes (CCGs)
  • sex specificity


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