Diurnal and nocturnal animals differ with respect to the timing of a host of behavioral and physiological events including those associated with neuroendocrine functions, but the neural bases of these differences are poorly understood. In nocturnal species, rhythms in tyrosine hydroxylase-containing (TH+) neurons in the hypothalamus appear to be responsible for rhythms in prolactin secretion. Here we investigated TH+ cells in a diurnal rodent (Arvicanthis niloticus, the unstriped Nile grass rat), and comparing them with those of a nocturnal rodent (Rattus norvegicus, Sprague-Dawley rat). We also examined relationships between TH+ cells and fibers containing vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP) that are thought to originate from cells in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), the site of the primary circadian clock in mammals. The distribution of TH+ neurons was very similar in the two species except for a population of cells in the basal forebrain that was only present in grass rats. Fibers containing VIP appeared to contact neuroendocrine TH+ cells in both species. These data suggest that, though there may be subtle species differences, temporal information is likely to be carried along the same direct pathways from the SCN to the TH+ neurons in day- and night-active species.
- Suprachiasmatic nucleus
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience