• clock genes;
  • daily rhythm;
  • gene expression;
  • peripheral tissues;
  • phase shift


To investigate the photoreception that controls daily oscillations at the periphery in insects, we decapitated larvae of the silkworm Bombyx mori (Lepidoptera: Bombycidae) by ligature, and observed rhythms in their peripheral tissues under several light conditions. We measured the mRNA expression of period (per) and timeless (tim), which are homologues of Drosophila clock genes that function in the core oscillator of the circadian clock system. The expression of both per and tim significantly changed in the midgut, Malpighian tubules and silk glands of decapitated larvae exposed to photophase and scotophase that were reversed from the original daily light–dark cycle under which the larvae were housed. Under constant darkness, the daily expression of tim mRNA persisted for at least one cycle in the midgut and silk gland. In addition, an appropriate light stimulus under constant darkness induced a significant phase shift in the endogenous timing system (probably a circadian clock) that determined peak levels of tim mRNA expression in the midgut and silk glands of decapitated larvae. Since light regulated the gene expression rhythm in peripheral tissues of decapitated silkworm larvae, neither the brain nor eyes were essential for photoreception to control daily oscillations in these tissues. Thus, peripheral tissues in insects might directly use light even at the larval stage.