Indexed on: 13 Nov '12Published on: 13 Nov '12Published in: PloS one
In the mammalian brain, the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the anterior hypothalamus is considered to be the principal circadian pacemaker, keeping the rhythm of most physiological and behavioral processes on the basis of light/dark cycles. Because restriction of food availability to a certain time of day elicits anticipatory behavior even after ablation of the SCN, such behavior has been assumed to be under the control of another circadian oscillator. According to recent studies, however, mutant mice lacking circadian clock function exhibit normal food-anticipatory activity (FAA), a daily increase in locomotor activity preceding periodic feeding, suggesting that FAA is independent of the known circadian oscillator. To investigate the molecular basis of FAA, we examined oscillatory properties in mice lacking molecular clock components. Mice with SCN lesions or with mutant circadian periods were exposed to restricted feeding schedules at periods within and outside circadian range. Periodic feeding led to the entrainment of FAA rhythms only within a limited circadian range. Cry1(-/-) mice, which are known to be a "short-period mutant," entrained to a shorter period of feeding cycles than did Cry2(-/-) mice. This result indicated that the intrinsic periods of FAA rhythms are also affected by Cry deficiency. Bmal1(-/-) mice, deficient in another essential element of the molecular clock machinery, exhibited a pre-feeding increase of activity far from circadian range, indicating a deficit in circadian oscillation. We propose that mice possess a food-entrainable pacemaker outside the SCN in which canonical clock genes such as Cry1, Cry2 and Bmal1 play essential roles in regulating FAA in a circadian oscillatory manner.