Animal cryptochromes mediate magnetoreception by an unconventional photochemical mechanism.
ABSTRACT: Understanding the biophysical basis of animal magnetoreception has been one of the greatest challenges in sensory biology. Recently it was discovered that the light-dependent magnetic sense of Drosophila melanogaster is mediated by the ultraviolet (UV)-A/blue light photoreceptor cryptochrome (Cry). Here we show, using a transgenic approach, that the photoreceptive, Drosophila-like type 1 Cry and the transcriptionally repressive, vertebrate-like type 2 Cry of the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) can both function in the magnetoreception system of Drosophila and require UV-A/blue light (wavelength below 420 nm) to do so. The lack of magnetic responses for both Cry types at wavelengths above 420 nm does not fit the widely held view that tryptophan triad-generated radical pairs mediate the ability of Cry to sense a magnetic field. We bolster this assessment by using a mutant form of Drosophila and monarch type 1 Cry and confirm that the tryptophan triad pathway is not crucial in magnetic transduction. Together, these results suggest that animal Crys mediate light-dependent magnetoreception through an unconventional photochemical mechanism. This work emphasizes the utility of Drosophila transgenesis for elucidating the precise mechanisms of Cry-mediated magnetosensitivity in insects and also in vertebrates such as migrating birds.
Project description:The blue-light sensitive photoreceptor cryptochrome (CRY) may act as a magneto-receptor through formation of radical pairs involving a triad of tryptophans. Previous genetic analyses of behavioral responses of Drosophila to electromagnetic fields using conditioning, circadian and geotaxis assays have lent some support to the radical pair model (RPM). Here, we describe a new method that generates consistent and reliable circadian responses to electromagnetic fields that differ substantially from those already reported. We used the Schuderer apparatus to isolate Drosophila from local environmental variables, and observe extremely low frequency (3 to 50 Hz) field-induced changes in two locomotor phenotypes, circadian period and activity levels. These field-induced phenotypes are CRY- and blue-light dependent, and are correlated with enhanced CRY stability. Mutational analysis of the terminal tryptophan of the triad hypothesised to be indispensable to the electron transfer required by the RPM reveals that this residue is not necessary for field responses. We observe that deletion of the CRY C-terminus dramatically attenuates the EMF-induced period changes, whereas the N-terminus underlies the hyperactivity. Most strikingly, an isolated CRY C-terminus that does not encode the Tryptophan triad nor the FAD binding domain is nevertheless able to mediate a modest EMF-induced period change. Finally, we observe that hCRY2, but not hCRY1, transformants can detect EMFs, suggesting that hCRY2 is blue light-responsive. In contrast, when we examined circadian molecular cycles in wild-type mouse suprachiasmatic nuclei slices under blue light, there was no field effect. Our results are therefore not consistent with the classical Trp triad-mediated RPM and suggest that CRYs act as blue-light/EMF sensors depending on trans-acting factors that are present in particular cellular environments.
Project description:The circadian clock plays a vital role in monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) migration by providing the timing component of time-compensated sun compass orientation, a process that is important for successful navigation. We therefore evaluated the monarch clockwork by focusing on the functions of a Drosophila-like cryptochrome (cry), designated cry1, and a vertebrate-like cry, designated cry2, that are both expressed in the butterfly and by placing these genes in the context of other relevant clock genes in vivo. We found that similar temporal patterns of clock gene expression and protein levels occur in the heads, as occur in DpN1 cells, of a monarch cell line that contains a light-driven clock. CRY1 mediates TIMELESS degradation by light in DpN1 cells, and a light-induced TIMELESS decrease occurs in putative clock cells in the pars lateralis (PL) in the brain. Moreover, monarch cry1 transgenes partially rescue both biochemical and behavioral light-input defects in cry(b) mutant Drosophila. CRY2 is the major transcriptional repressor of CLOCK:CYCLE-mediated transcription in DpN1 cells, and endogenous CRY2 potently inhibits transcription without involvement of PERIOD. CRY2 is co-localized with clock proteins in the PL, and there it translocates to the nucleus at the appropriate time for transcriptional repression. We also discovered CRY2-positive neural projections that oscillate in the central complex. The results define a novel, CRY-centric clock mechanism in the monarch in which CRY1 likely functions as a blue-light photoreceptor for entrainment, whereas CRY2 functions within the clockwork as the transcriptional repressor of a negative transcriptional feedback loop. Our data further suggest that CRY2 may have a dual role in the monarch butterfly's brain-as a core clock element and as an output that regulates circadian activity in the central complex, the likely site of the sun compass.
Project description:Interconnected transcriptional and translational feedback loops are at the core of the molecular mechanism of the circadian clock. Such feedback loops are synchronized to external light entrainment by the blue light photoreceptor cryptochrome (CRY) that undergoes conformational changes upon light absorption by an unknown photoexcitation mechanism. Light-induced charge transfer (CT) reactions in Drosophila CRY (dCRY) are investigated by state-of-the-art simulations that reveal a complex, multi-redox site nature of CT dynamics on the microscopic level. The simulations consider redox-active chromophores of the tryptophan triad (Trp triad) and further account for pathways mediated by W314 and W422 residues proximate to the C-terminal tail (CTT), thus avoiding a pre-bias to specific W-mediated CT pathways. The conducted dissipative quantum dynamics simulations employ microscopically derived model Hamiltonians and display complex and ultrafast CT dynamics on the picosecond timescale, subtly balanced by the electrostatic environment of dCRY. In silicio point mutations provide a microscopic basis for rationalizing particular CT directionality and demonstrate the degree of electrostatic control realized by a discrete set of charged amino acid residues. The predicted participation of CT states in proximity to the CTT relates the directionality of CT reactions to the spatial vicinity of a linear interaction motif. The results stress the importance of CTT directional charge transfer in addition to charge transfer via the Trp triad and call for the use of full-length CRY models including the interactions of photolyase homology region (PHR) and CTT domains.
Project description:Many higher animals have evolved the ability to use the Earth's magnetic field, particularly for orientation. Drosophila melanogaster also respond to electromagnetic fields (EMFs), although the reported effects are quite modest. Here we report that negative geotaxis in flies, scored as climbing, is disrupted by a static EMF, and this is mediated by cryptochrome (CRY), the blue-light circadian photoreceptor. CRYs may sense EMFs via formation of radical pairs of electrons requiring photoactivation of flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD) bound near a triad of Trp residues, but mutation of the terminal Trp in the triad maintains EMF responsiveness in climbing. In contrast, deletion of the CRY C terminus disrupts EMF responses, indicating that it plays an important signalling role. CRY expression in a subset of clock neurons, or the photoreceptors, or the antennae, is sufficient to mediate negative geotaxis and EMF sensitivity. Climbing therefore provides a robust and reliable phenotype for studying EMF responses in Drosophila.
Project description:<i>Drosophila</i> CRYPTOCHROME (CRY) is a blue light sensitive protein with a key role in circadian photoreception. A main feature of CRY is that light promotes an interaction with the circadian protein TIMELESS (TIM) resulting in their ubiquitination and degradation, a mechanism that contributes to the synchronization of the circadian clock to the environment. Moreover, CRY participates in non-circadian functions such as magnetoreception, modulation of neuronal firing, phototransduction and regulation of synaptic plasticity. In the present study we used co-immunoprecipitation, yeast 2 hybrid (Y2H) and <i>in situ</i> proximity ligation assay (PLA) to show that CRY can physically associate with the presynaptic protein BRUCHPILOT (BRP) and that CRY-BRP complexes are located mainly in the visual system. Additionally, we present evidence that light-activated CRY may decrease BRP levels in photoreceptor termini in the distal lamina, probably targeting BRP for degradation.
Project description:Convincing evidence that migrant monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) use a magnetic compass to aid their fall migration has been lacking from the spectacular navigational capabilities of this species. Here we use flight simulator studies to show that migrants indeed possess an inclination magnetic compass to help direct their flight equatorward in the fall. The use of this inclination compass is light-dependent utilizing ultraviolet-A/blue light between 380 and 420 nm. Notably, the significance of light <420 nm for inclination compass function was not considered in previous monarch studies. The antennae are important for the inclination compass because they appear to contain light-sensitive magnetosensors. For migratory monarchs, the inclination compass may serve as an important orientation mechanism when directional daylight cues are unavailable and may also augment time-compensated sun compass orientation for appropriate directionality throughout the migration.
Project description:It is striking that the mechanism by which birds sense geomagnetic fields during the biannual migration seasons is not entirely understood. A protein believed to be responsible for avian magnetoreception is the flavoprotein cryptochrome (CRY), which fulfills many of the criteria for a magnetic field sensor. Some experiments, however, indicate that magnetoreception in birds may be disturbed by extremely weak radio frequency fields, an effect that likely cannot be described by an isolated CRY protein. An explanation can possibly be delivered if CRY binds to another protein inside a cell that would possess certain biochemical properties, and it is, therefore, important to identify possible intracellular CRY interaction partners. The goal of this study is to investigate a possible interaction between CRY4 and the iron-sulfur-containing assembly protein (ISCA1) from Erithacus rubecula (European robin), which has recently been proposed to be relevant for magnetic field sensing. The interaction between the proteins is established through classical molecular dynamics simulations for several possible protein-docking modes. The analysis of these simulations concludes that the ISCA1 complex and CRY4 are capable of binding; however, the peculiarities of this binding argue strongly against ISCA1 as relevant for magnetoreception.
Project description:Drosophila have been used as model organisms to explore both the biophysical mechanisms of animal magnetoreception and the possibility that weak, low-frequency anthropogenic electromagnetic fields may have biological consequences. In both cases, the presumed receptor is cryptochrome, a protein thought to be responsible for magnetic compass sensing in migratory birds and a variety of magnetic behavioural responses in insects. Here, we demonstrate that photo-induced electron transfer reactions in Drosophila melanogaster cryptochrome are indeed influenced by magnetic fields of a few millitesla. The form of the protein containing flavin and tryptophan radicals shows kinetics that differ markedly from those of closely related members of the cryptochrome-photolyase family. These differences and the magnetic sensitivity of Drosophila cryptochrome are interpreted in terms of the radical pair mechanism and a photocycle involving the recently discovered fourth tryptophan electron donor.
Project description:The cryptochrome/photolyase (CRY/PL) family of photoreceptors mediates adaptive responses to ultraviolet and blue light exposure in all kingdoms of life. Whereas PLs function predominantly in DNA repair of cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers (CPDs) and 6-4 photolesions caused by ultraviolet radiation, CRYs transduce signals important for growth, development, magnetosensitivity and circadian clocks. Despite these diverse functions, PLs/CRYs preserve a common structural fold, a dependence on flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD) and an internal photoactivation mechanism. However, members of the CRY/PL family differ in the substrates recognized (protein or DNA), photochemical reactions catalysed and involvement of an antenna cofactor. It is largely unknown how the animal CRYs that regulate circadian rhythms act on their substrates. CRYs contain a variable carboxy-terminal tail that appends the conserved PL homology domain (PHD) and is important for function. Here, we report a 2.3-Å resolution crystal structure of Drosophila CRY with an intact C terminus. The C-terminal helix docks in the analogous groove that binds DNA substrates in PLs. Conserved Trp?536 juts into the CRY catalytic centre to mimic PL recognition of DNA photolesions. The FAD anionic semiquinone found in the crystals assumes a conformation to facilitate restructuring of the tail helix. These results help reconcile the diverse functions of the CRY/PL family by demonstrating how conserved protein architecture and photochemistry can be elaborated into a range of light-driven functions.
Project description:The cryptochrome/photolyase protein family possesses a conserved triad of tryptophans that may act as a molecular wire to transport electrons from the protein surface to the FAD cofactor for activation and/or signaling-state formation. Members from the animal (and animal-like) cryptochrome subclade use this process in a light-induced fashion in a number of exciting responses, such as the (re-)setting of circadian rhythms or magnetoreception; however, electron-transfer pathways have not been explored in detail yet. Therefore, we present an in-depth time-resolved optical and electron-paramagnetic resonance spectroscopic study of two cryptochromes from Chlamydomonas reinhardtii and Drosophila melanogaster. The results do not only reveal the existence of a fourth, more distant aromatic amino acid that serves as a terminal electron donor in both proteins, but also show that a tyrosine is able to fulfill this very role in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii cryptochrome. Additionally, exchange of the respective fourth aromatic amino acid to redox-inactive phenylalanines still leads to light-induced radical pair formation; however, the lifetimes of these species are drastically reduced from the ms- to the ?s-range. The results presented in this study open up a new chapter, to our knowledge, in the diversity of electron-transfer pathways in cryptochromes. Moreover, they could explain unique functions of animal cryptochromes, in particular their potential roles in magnetoreception because magnetic-field effects of light-induced radical pairs strongly depend on distance and orientation parameters.