Vertebrate-like CRYPTOCHROME 2 from monarch regulates circadian transcription via independent repression of CLOCK and BMAL1 activity Academic Article uri icon


  • Circadian repression of CLOCK-BMAL1 by PERIOD and CRYPTOCHROME (CRY) in mammals lies at the core of the circadian timekeeping mechanism. CRY repression of CLOCK-BMAL1 and regulation of circadian period are proposed to rely primarily on competition for binding with coactivators on an α-helix located within the transactivation domain (TAD) of the BMAL1 C terminus. This model has, however, not been tested in vivo. Here, we applied CRISPR/Cas9-mediated mutagenesis in the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus), which possesses a vertebrate-like CRY (dpCRY2) and an ortholog of BMAL1, to show that insect CRY2 regulates circadian repression through TAD α-helix-dependent and -independent mechanisms. Monarch mutants lacking the BMAL1 C terminus including the TAD exhibited arrhythmic eclosion behavior. In contrast, mutants lacking the TAD α-helix but retaining the most distal C-terminal residues exhibited robust rhythms during the first day of constant darkness (DD1), albeit with a delayed peak of eclosion. Phase delay in this mutant on DD1 was exacerbated in the presence of a single functional allele of dpCry2, and rhythmicity was abolished in the absence of dpCRY2. Reporter assays in Drosophila S2 cells further revealed that dpCRY2 represses through two distinct mechanisms: a TAD-dependent mechanism that involves the dpBMAL1 TAD α-helix and dpCLK W328 and a TAD-independent mechanism involving dpCLK E333. Together, our results provide evidence for independent mechanisms of vertebrate-like CRY circadian regulation on the BMAL1 C terminus and the CLK PAS-B domain and demonstrate the importance of a BMAL1 TAD-independent mechanism for generating circadian rhythms in vivo.

altmetric score

  • 6

author list (cited authors)

  • Zhang, Y., Markert, M. J., Groves, S. C., Hardin, P. E., & Merlin, C.

citation count

  • 23

publication date

  • August 2017