Changes in estrogen receptor signaling alters the timekeeping system in male mice

Margaret S. Blattner, Megan M. Mahoney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Circadian rhythms are modulated by steroid hormones; however, the mechanisms of this action are not fully understood, particularly in males. In females estradiol regulates activity level, pattern of expression, and free running period (tau). We tested the hypothesis that activity level and distribution in male mice includes both classical and "non-classical" actions of estrogens at the estrogen receptor subtype 1 (ESR1). We used transgenic mice with mutations in their estrogen response pathways: ESR1 knock-out (ERKO) mice lack the ability to respond to estrogens via ESR1. "Non-classical" estrogen receptor knock-in (NERKI) mice have an inserted ESR1 receptor with a mutation in the estrogen-response-element binding domain, allowing activation via non-genomic and second messenger pathways. Gonadectomized male NERKI, ERKO, and wildtype (WT) littermates were given oil, or low or high dose estradiol and daily activity parameters were quantified. Estradiol shortened the ratio of activity in the light relative to dark (LD ratio), shortened tau, advanced the time of activity onset, and altered responsiveness to light cues administered in the late subjective night, suggesting modulation by an ESR1-independent mechanism. Estradiol treatment in NERKI but not WT males altered the timing of activity onset, LD ratio, and the behavioral response to light cues. These results may represent disruptions in the balance of genomic/nongenomic or ESR1/ESR2 signaling pathways. We also found a significant genotype effect on total activity, LD ratio, tau, and activity duration. These data provide new information about the role of ESR1-dependent and independent signaling pathways on the timekeeping system in male mice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-49
Number of pages7
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
StatePublished - Nov 1 2015


  • Behavior
  • Circadian
  • ERKO
  • Estrogen
  • Locomotor activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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