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'Wrong'-time eating reduces fertility in fruit flies
Date:6/7/2011

Sehgal's team discovered that the fruit fly equivalent of the liver, called the fat body, has its own clock, which controls eating and food storage. They wanted to know what would happen if the fat body clock became desynchronized from the master clock in the brain.

Decoupling Clocks

First, her team asked which fly genes are controlled specifically by the fat body clock. Using gene chip microarrays, they identified 81 genes related to lipid and carbohydrate metabolism, the immune system, and reproduction that fit those criteria.

Next, the researchers attempted to decouple the fat body and central clocks by keeping the flies in constant darkness (to eliminate effects of light on these clocks) and feeding them at times when they don't normally eat. They found the two clocks could be desynchronized: disrupting the animals' feeding cycles altered the cycling of genes controlled by the fat-body clock, but not those regulated by the central clock itself itself.

Finally, the team addressed the functional consequences of this desynchronization, by counting the number of eggs the flies laid under different conditions. Flies fed at the "right" time of the day deposited about 8 eggs per day, compared to about 5 when they fed at the "wrong" time.

"Circadian desynchrony caused by feeding at the 'wrong' time of day leads to a defect in overall reproductive capacity," the authors wrote.

The next question to pursue, Sehgal says, is finding the molecular mechanism that controls this phenomenon: How does the fat body communicate with the ovaries. And, more importantly, is this effect restricted to fruit flies, or does it also occur in higher organisms, including humans.


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Contact: Karen Kreeger
karen.kreeger@uphs.upenn.edu
215-349-5658
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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