Melatonin is released from the pineal gland into the circulatory system at night in the absence of light, acting as "hormone of darkness" to the brain and body. Melatonin also can regulate circadian phasing of the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). During the day-to-night transition, melatonin exposure advances intrinsic SCN neural activity rhythms via the melatonin type-2 (MT2 ) receptor and downstream activation of protein kinase C (PKC). The effects of melatonin on SCN phasing have not been linked to daily changes in the expression of core genes that constitute the molecular framework of the circadian clock. Using real-time RT-PCR, we found that melatonin induces an increase in the expression of two clock genes, Period 1 (Per1) and Period 2 (Per2). This effect occurs at CT 10, when melatonin advances SCN phase, but not at CT 6, when it does not. Using anti-sense oligodeoxynucleotides (α ODNs) to Per 1 and Per 2, as well as to E-box enhancer sequences in the promoters of these genes, we show that their specific induction is necessary for the phasealtering effects of melatonin on SCN neural activity rhythms in the rat. These effects of melatonin on Per1 and Per2 were mediated by PKC. This is unlike day-active non-photic signals that reset the SCN clock by non-PCK signal transduction mechanisms and by decreasing Per1 expression. Rather, this finding extends roles for Per1 and Per2, which are critical to photic phase-resetting, to a nonphotic zeitgeber, melatonin, and suggest that the regulation of these clock gene transcripts is required for clock resetting by diverse regulatory cues.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)