Oestradiol Exposure Early in Life Programs Daily and Circadian Activity Rhythms in Adult Mice

S. E. Royston, D. Bunick, M. M. Mahoney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hormone signalling during critical periods organises the adult circadian timekeeping system by altering adult hormone sensitivity and shaping fundamental properties of circadian rhythmicity. However, the timing of when developmental oestrogens modify the timekeeping system is poorly understood. To test the hypothesis that alterations in postnatal oestrogenic signalling organise adult daily activity rhythms, we utilised aromatase knockout mice (ArKO), which lack the enzyme required for oestradiol synthesis. ArKO and wild-type (WT) males and females were administered either oestradiol (E) or oil (OIL) daily for the first 5 postnatal days (p1-5E and p1-5OIL, respectively) because this time encompasses the emergence of clock gene rhythmicity and light responsiveness in the suprachiasmatic nucleus, a bilateral hypothalamic structure regarded as the 'master oscillator'. After sexual maturation, gonadectomy and exogenous oestradiol supplementation, locomotor parameters were assessed. We determined that altered oestrogenic signalling in early life exerts organisational control over the expression of daily and circadian activity rhythms in adult mice. Specifically, p1-5E reduced total wheel running activity in male and female ArKO and female WT mice but had no effect on WT male activity levels. In females, wheel running was consolidated by p1-5E to the early versus late evening, a phenomenon characteristic of male mice. The time of peak activity was advanced by p1-5E in WT and ArKO females but not males. P1-5E shortened the length of the active phase (alpha) in WT males but had no effect on ArKO males or females of either genotypes. Finally, p1-5E altered the magnitude of photic-induced shifts, suggesting that developmental oestrogenic signalling impacts adult circadian functions. In the present study, we further define both a critical period of development of the adult timekeeping system and the role that oestrogenic signalling plays in the expression of daily and circadian activity rhythms throughout life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroendocrinology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • Circadian
  • Oestrogen
  • Organisational
  • Sex differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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