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Characterizing a Mammalian Circannual Pacemaker

Science  22 Dec 2006:
Vol. 314, Issue 5807, pp. 1941-1944
DOI: 10.1126/science.1132009

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Abstract

Many species express endogenous cycles in physiology and behavior that allow anticipation of the seasons. The anatomical and cellular bases of these circannual rhythms have not been defined. Here, we provide strong evidence using an in vivo Soay sheep model that the circannual regulation of prolactin secretion, and its associated biology, derive from a pituitary-based timing mechanism. Circannual rhythm generation is seen as the product of the interaction between melatonin-regulated timer cells and adjacent prolactin-secreting cells, which together function as an intrapituitary “pacemaker-slave” timer system. These new insights open the way for a molecular analysis of long-term timing mechanisms.

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