Absence of pineal-independent mediation of seasonal differences in suprachiasmatic nucleus AVP and VIP mRNA expression in Siberian hamsters


Assessment of seasonal variations in expression of brain neuropeptide mRNA is complicated by concurrent circadian variations. Because entrainment of suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) based rhythms differs in long versus short day lengths, valid seasonal comparisons must be made at equivalent circadian phases. We used a novel experimental design which permitted sampling at identical circadian phases of animals exhibiting opposite seasonal reproductive responses to the same intermediate day length. This allowed us to test whether seasonal changes in arginine vasopressin (AVP) and vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) mRNA expression in the SCN occur in the absence of the pineal gland. Juvenile Siberian hamsters were gestated and maintained postnatally in either a long photoperiod (16 h light/day) or short photoperiod (10 h light/day). At the time of weaning (18 days of age), the hamsters were pinealectomized and either transferred to a new photoperiod (10-, 16- or 14-h light/day) or left in the original photoperiod. Hamsters from 10L had substantially smaller and lighter testes than those from 16L. If photoperiodic modulation of AVP and VIP mRNA expression occurs in the absence of the pineal, then transfer of pinealectomized hamsters from a longer (16L) or shorter (10L) photoperiod to an intermediate photoperiod (14L) should result in a differential response with respect to SCN AVP and VIP mRNA expression but not testis size. When sampled at an identical circadian phase (3 h after lights on) in 14L there was no difference in the expression of AVP or VIP mRNA in the SCN between animals previously housed in long versus short day lengths. In contrast to a previous study that did not carefully control for circadian phase, the present findings suggest that seasonal photoperiodic control of SCN neuropeptide mRNA expression depends upon the pineal gland. In addition, the present findings demonstrate a significant, negative correlation between AVP mRNA expression in the SCN and the length of the daily active phase (alpha). © 2002 Published by Elsevier Science B.V.

Publication Title

Molecular Brain Research