The earth’s magnetic field plays an important role in the spectacular migrations and navigational abilities of many higher animals, particularly birds. However, these organisms are not amenable to genetic analysis, unlike the model fruitfly, Drosophila melanogaster, which can respond to magnetic fields under laboratory conditions. We therefore review the field of insect
magnetosensitivity focusing on the role of the Cryptochromes (CRYs) that were first identified in Arabidopsis and Drosophila as key molecular components of circadian photo-entrainment pathways. Physico-chemical studies suggest that photo-activation of flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD) bound to CRY generates a FAD o− Trp o+ radical pair as electrons skip along a chain of specific Trp residues and that the quantum spin chemistry of these radicals is sensitive to magnetic fields. The manipulation of CRY in several insect species has been performed using gene editing, replacement/rescue and knockdown methods. The effects of these various mutations on magnetosensitivity have revealed a number of surprises that are discussed in the light of recent developments from both in vivo and in vitro studies.
cryptochrome | Drosophila | radical pairs | electron spin | quantum | migration | circadian