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J Comp Neurol. 2000 Aug 14;424(1):86-98.

The role of Clock in the developmental expression of neuropeptides in the suprachiasmatic nucleus.

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Department of Biology, National Science Foundation Center for Biological Timing, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia 22903, USA.


The suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) is the dominant circadian pacemaker in mammals. To understand better the ontogeny of mouse SCN and the role of the pacemaker in peptide expression, the authors examined the distribution of cells that were immunoreactive for vasopressin (AVP) or vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP) in wild type and Clock mutant mice at two developmental stages. Clock homozygous mice failed to show the dramatic increase in the number of VIP-immunoreactive (VIP-ir) neurons from postnatal day 6 (P6) to P30 that was found in the SCN of wild type mice. The number of AVP-ir neurons was relatively constant in the postnatal SCN but was significantly reduced in Clock/Clock mice. The effects of the Clock mutation varied with position in the SCN for both peptides. Densitometry of immunolabeled brains indicated that the Clock mutation reduced AVP expression specifically in the SCN and not in other brain areas. The SCN did not significantly change shape or size with age or Clock genotype. Taken together, these results indicate that the neonatal mouse SCN has its full complement of cells, some of which are not yet mature in their neuropeptide content. Furthermore, the observation that the Clock mutation appears to act on a subset of AVP and VIP cells suggests heterogeneity within these cell classes in the SCN.

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