Light pulses that shift rhythms induce gene expression in the suprachiasmatic nucleus

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  08 Jun 1990:
Vol. 248, Issue 4960, pp. 1237-1240
DOI: 10.1126/science.2112267


Lighting cycles synchronize (entrain) mammalian circadian rhythms by altering activity of cells in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the hypothalamus, a circadian pacemaker. Exposure of hamsters and rats to light pulses at those phases of the circadian rhythm during which light can shift the rhythm caused increased immunoreactivity for the product of the immediate-early gene c-fos in cells in the region of the SCN that receives retinal fibers. Light pulses also increased messenger RNA for the Fos protein and for the immediate-early protein NGFI-A in the rat SCN. Similar increases in mRNA for NGFI-A were seen in the SCN of hamsters. Thus cells in this portion of the SCN undergo alterations in gene expression in response to retinal illumination, but only at times in the circadian cycle when light is capable of influencing entrainment.