The suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) is a circadian oscillator entrained to the day/night cycle via input from the retina. Serotonin (5-HT) afferents to the SCN modulate retinal signals via activation of 5-HT1B receptors, decreasing responsiveness to light. Consequently, 5-HT1B receptor knockout (KO) mice entrain to the day/night cycle with delayed activity onsets. Since circulating corticosterone levels exhibit a robust daily rhythm peaking around activity onset, we asked whether delayed entrainment of activity onsets affects rhythmic corticosterone secretion. Wheel-running activity and plasma corticosterone were monitored in mice housed under several different lighting regimens. Both duration of the light:dark cycle (T cycle) and the duration of light within that cycle was altered. 5-HT1B KO mice that entrained to a 9.5L:13.5D (short day in a T = 23 h) cycle with activity onsets delayed more than 4 h after light offset exhibited a corticosterone rhythm in phase with activity rhythms but reduced 50% in amplitude compared to animals that initiated daily activity <4 h after light offset. Wild type mice in 8L:14D (short day in a T = 22 h) conditions with highly delayed activity onsets also exhibited a 50% reduction in peak plasma corticosterone levels. Exogenous adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) stimulation in animals exhibiting highly delayed entrainment suggested that the endogenous rhythm of adrenal responsiveness to ACTH remained aligned with SCN-driven behavioral activity. Circadian clock gene expression in the adrenal cortex of these same animals suggested that the adrenal circadian clock was also aligned with SCN-driven behavior. Under T cycles <24 h, altered circadian entrainment to short day (winter-like) conditions, manifest as long delays in activity onset after light offset, severely reduces the amplitude of the diurnal rhythm of plasma corticosterone. Such a pronounced reduction in the glucocorticoid rhythm may alter rhythmic gene expression in the central nervous system and in peripheral organs contributing to an array of potential pathophysiologies.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)