The thalamic intergeniculate leaflet modulates photoperiod responsiveness in Siberian hamsters


Siberian hamsters are seasonal breeders that use changes in day length to synchronize their reproductive effort with those times of the year most favorable for successful reproduction. The ability of Siberian hamsters to measure and respond to changes in day length depends upon accurate photoentrainment of the circadian clock in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the hypothalamus. Two pathways have been characterized through which entraining stimuli reach the SCN: the retinohypothalamic tract (RHT), which transmits light information from the retinae, and the geniculohypothalamic tract (GHT) from the intergeniculate leaflet of the thalamus (IGL), which is involved in transmitting both photic and nonphotic cues. Ablating the IGL/GHT results in only modest alterations in entrainment to static day lengths and fails to interfere with seasonal responses induced by transfer from static long day to static short day lengths. Because several studies suggest that the IGL may be involved in tracking the time of dusk and dawn, we sought to determine whether an intact IGL is necessary for hamsters to respond to a simulated natural photoperiod (SNP) in which the time of dusk and dawn gradually changes in a pattern approximating the rate of change in day length that occurs during autumn at the latitude this species inhabits in nature. The results indicate that neurochemical lesions of the IGL alter both the pattern of circadian entrainment and photoperiodic responsiveness of Siberian hamsters to an SNP. Both intact and IGL-lesioned hamsters exhibited testicular regression in shortening day lengths, but only IGL-intact hamsters exhibited seasonal pelage molt. © 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Publication Title

Brain Research