Metamorphosis of a clock: Remodeling of the circadian timing system in the brain of Rhodnius prolixus (Hemiptera) during larval-adult development



The rhythmic phenomena expressed by organisms change over their lifetimes, but little is known of accompanying reorganization of the central circadian timing system in the brain. Especially dramatic changes in overt rhythms and morphology occur during transformation of larval insects into the adult form (metamorphosis). In Rhodnius prolixus, both the physiology of metamorphosis and its hormonal control are known in detail. Here we report changes in the brain timing system as revealed by pigment dispersing factor immunohistochemistry and confocal microscopy. Most of the features of the larval system are retained, but new clock cells differentiate and the arborizations of their axons increase in complexity, as do pathways connecting the lateral (LNs) and dorsal (DNs) groups of clock neurons. Early in metamorphosis, the LNs increase from 8 to 11 in number, becoming five small and six large LNs. Two large LNs then migrate to new positions in the protocerebrum. Another clock cell differentiates in the posterior protocerebrum. Each change occurs at a characteristic concentration of the ecdysteroid molting hormones that regulate metamorphosis. Clock cell axons invade the mushroom body and corpus allatum and travel down the ventral nerve cord. New overt rhythms develop during metamorphosis, in which these structures participate. The neuroendocrine cells of the brain receive more extensive branches of clock cell axons than in larvae. These increases in size and complexity of the circadian system during metamorphosis imply a greater complexity and diversity of outputs from it to both behavioral and hormonal rhythms in the adult. J. Comp. Neurol. 520:1146–1164, 2012. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.