María de la Paz Fernández, Ph.D.

María de la Paz Fernández, Ph.D.

Research Interest

Research Statement

Circadian systems evolved as a mechanism that allows organisms to maintain internal temporal order and anticipate the daily environmental changes caused by the rotation of Earth. Although the biochemical components underlying the molecular oscillations have been well characterized, less is known about the physiological mechanisms that connect clock neuron networks to their output pathways and allow the circadian control of physiology and behavior. Timing of behavioral outputs is essential for survival, as it determines an animal`s ability to be physiologically ready for resources and potential mates

Disruption of circadian rhythms by modern environmental conditions has significant impacts on health. A growing body of evidence indicates significant sex differences in the circadian system, but little is known about how temporal organization of physiology and behavior differs between sexes. Drosophila is a powerful model system in which to study the neuronal basis of sexual dimorphism in timekeeping thanks to its well characterized circadian clock neuron network and a highly conserved molecular oscillator. Our work is focused on using genetic, anatomical, and behavioral tools to study how sex differences in molecular, neuronal, and physiological pathways control sexual dimorphism in sleep/wake cycles and circadian entrainment.

1. Shafer OT, Gutierrez GJ, Li K, Mildenhall A, Spira D, Marty J, Lazar A, and Fernández MP (2022). Connectomic Analysis of the Drosophila Lateral Neuron Clock Cells Reveals the Synaptic Basis of Functional Pacemaker Classes. eLife. 11:e79139. doi: 10.7554/eLife.79139.

2. Jois S, Chan Y-B, Fernández MP, Pujari N, Janz LJ and Leung A.K-W. (2022). Sexually Dimorphic Mechanosensory Neurons Regulate Copulation Duration and Persistence in Male Drosophila. Scientific Reports 12, 6177

3. Pearsons JL, Abhilash L, Lopatkin AJ, Roelofs A, Bell EV, Fernández MP and Shafer OT (2022). PHASE: A MATLAB Based Program for the Analysis of Drosophila Phase, Activity, and Sleep under Entrainment. J Biol Rhythms. 21:7487304221093114. doi: 10.1177/07487304221093114.

4. Fernández MP, Trannoy S, Certel SJ. Methods for Quantifying Male and Female Aggression. Neurobiology of Drosophila, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press (2022, in press).

5. Pandolfi M, Scaia MF and Fernández MP (2021). Sexual Dimorphism in Aggression: Sex-Specific Fighting Strategies Across Species. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience 15: 659615

6. Legros, J, Tang G, Gautrais J, Fernández MP and Trannoy S (2021). Long-term dietary restriction leads to development of alternative fighting strategies. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience 14:166.

7. Monyak R., Golbari N, Pranevicius A, Tang G, Chan Y-B, Fernández MP and Kravitz EA (2021). Masculinised Drosophila females adapt their fighting strategies to their opponent. Journal of Experimental Biology, 224: jeb238006. doi: 10.1242/jeb.238006. PMID: 33568440

8. Fernández MP, Pettibone HL, Bogart J, Roell CJ, Davey CE, Pranevicius A, Huynh KV, Lennox SM, Kostadinov BS and Shafer OT (2020). Sites of Circadian Clock Neuron Plasticity Mediate Sensory Integration and Entrainment. Current Biology 30, 1-13

9. Kostadinov B, Pettibone HL, Bell EV, Zhou X, Pranevicius A, Shafer OT and Fernández MP (2021). Open-Source Computational Framework for Studying Drosophila Behavioral Phase. Star Protocols 2 (1).

10. Jois S, Chan Y-B, Fernández MP and Leung A K-W (2018). Characterization of the sexually dimorphic Fruitless neurons that regulate copulation duration. Frontiers in Physiology 9:780. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2018.00780

11. Kravitz EA and Fernández MP (2015). Aggression in Drosophila. Behavioral Neuroscience 129(5):549-563

12. Alekseyenko OV, Chan YB, Fernández MP, Bülow T, Pankratz MJ, Kravitz EA (2014). Single Serotonergic Neurons that Modulate Aggression in Drosophila. Current Biology 24:2700-7

13. Andrews JC, Fernández MP, Yu Q, Leary GP, Leung AK, Kavanaugh MP, Kravitz EA, Certel SJ (2014). Octopamine neuromodulation regulates gr32a-linked aggression and courtship pathways in Drosophila males. PLoS Genetics 10(5):e1004356

14. Fernández MP and Kravitz EA (2013). Aggression and courtship in Drosophila: pheromonal communication and sex recognition. Journal of Comparative Physiology. 199:1065-76

15. Fernández MP#, Chan YB#, Yew JY, Billeter J-C, Dreisewerd K, Levine JD and Kravitz EA (2010). Pheromonal and Behavioral Cues Trigger Male-to-Female Aggression in Drosophila. PLoS Biology 8(11): e1000541. #equal contribution

16. Rezával C, Berni J, Gorostiza EA, Werbajh S, Fagilde MM, Fernández MP, Beckwith EJ, Aranovich EJ, Sabio y García CA and Ceriani MF (2008). A functional misexpression screen uncovers a role for enabled in progressive neurodegeneration. PLoS One 3: e3332

17. Fernández MP, Berni J and Ceriani MF (2008). Circadian remodeling of neuronal circuits involved in rhythmic behavior. PLoS Biology 6 (3):69

18. Berni J, Beckwith EJ, Fernández MP and Ceriani MF (2008). The axon-guidance roundabout gene alters the pace of the Drosophila circadian clock. European Journal of Neuroscience 27: 396-407

19. Stoleru D, Nawathean P, Fernández MP, Menet JS, Ceriani MF and Rosbash M (2007). The Drosophila circadian network is a seasonal timer. Cell 129: 207-219

20. Fernández MP, Chu J, Villella A, Atkinson N, Kay SA and Ceriani MF (2007). Impaired clock output by altered connectivity in the circadian network. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 104: 5650-5655

21. Bekinschtein T, Negro, A, Goldin A, Fernández MP, Rosenbaum S and D.A. Golombek (2004). Seasonality in a native Mapuche population. Biological Rhythms Research 35: 145-152.

  • Neuroethology 
  • Social Behavior 
  • Circadian Rhythms and Sleep