To synchronize their molecular rhythms, circadian pacemaker neurons must input both external and internal timing cues and, therefore, signal integration between sensory information and internal clock status is fundamental to normal circadian physiology.
We demonstrate the specific convergence of clock-derived neuropeptide signaling with that of a deep brain photoreceptor. We report that the neuropeptide PDF receptor and the circadian photoreceptor CRYPTOCROME (CRY) are precisely co-expressed in a subset of pacemakers, and that these pathways together provide a requisite drive for circadian control of daily locomotor rhythms. These convergent signaling pathways influence the phase of rhythm generation, but also its amplitude. In the absence of both pathways, PER rhythms were greatly reduced in only those specific pacemakers that receive convergent inputs and PER levels remained high in the nucleus throughout the day. This suggested a large-scale dis-regulation of the pacemaking machinery. Behavioral rhythms were likewise disrupted: in light:dark conditions they were aberrant, and under constant dark conditions, they were lost.
We speculate that the convergence of environmental and clock-derived signals may produce a coincident detection of light, synergistic responses to it, and thus more accurate and more efficient re-setting properties.