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J Biol Rhythms. 2013 Aug;28(4):291-300. doi: 10.1177/0748730413497190.

Photic phase-response curve in 2 strains of mice with impaired responsiveness to estrogens.

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  • 1Neuroscience Program and Department of Comparative Biosciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL 61802, USA. mmm1@illinois.edu


Steroid hormones including estrogens modulate the expression of daily activity and circadian rhythms, including free-running period, phase angle of activity onset, and response to light. The mechanisms underlying these effects, however, are not fully understood. We tested the hypothesis that estrogen signaling is required for photic responsiveness of the circadian timing system. We used estrogen receptor subtype 1 (ESR1) knock-out mice (ERKO) and nonclassic estrogen receptor knock-in mice (NERKI). ERKO animals are unable to respond to estrogen at ESR1, and NERKI animals lack the ability to respond to estrogens via estrogen response element-mediated transcription but still respond via nonclassical mechanisms. We analyzed behavioral shifts in activity onset in response to 1-h light pulses given across the subjective 24-h day in gonadally intact male and female NERKI, ERKO, and wild-type (WT) littermates. We also examined Fos protein expression in the suprachiasmatic nucleus, the site of the master circadian pacemaker, at 2 times of day. We found a significant effect of genotype on phase shifts in response to light pulses given in the subjective night. Female WT mice had a significantly larger phase response than ERKO females during the early subjective night (phase shift of 98 min and 58 min, respectively; p < 0.05). NERKI females were intermediate to WT and ERKO females, suggesting a contribution of nonclassical estrogen signaling on circadian timekeeping functions. This genotype effect is not observed in males; they did not have a difference in phase shifts following a light pulse at any time point. WT males, however, shifted an average of 47 min less than did females at zeitgeber time (ZT) 16 (ZT 0 lights-on and ZT 12 lights-off). These data indicate that estrogens modify the response of the circadian timekeeping system to light via classical and nonclassical signaling pathways.


ERKO; ESR1; NERKI; estrogen; phase response curve

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