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Brain Res. 2007 Jul 23;1159:134-40. Epub 2007 May 23.

Clock gene expression in the rat retina: effects of lighting conditions and photoreceptor degeneration.

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  • 1Circadian Rhythms and Sleep Disorders Program, Neuroscience Institute, Morehouse School of Medicine, 720 Westview Dr, Atlanta, GA 30310-1495, USA.


Previous studies have shown that, in the Royal College of Surgeon rat, circadian rhythms in the retinal dopaminergic and melatonergic systems are still present after the photoreceptors have degenerated, thus demonstrating that circadian rhythmicity in the mammalian retina can be generated independently from the photoreceptors. The aim of the present study was to investigate the pattern of expression of the clock genes in the retina of the Royal College of Surgeons rat under different lighting conditions. Expression of clock genes was investigated in the retina of normal and dystrophic Royal College of Surgeons rats under 12 h of light/12 h of dark (LD), constant darkness (DD) and constant light (LL) using Real Time Quantitative RT-PCR. Our data indicate that, in control animals, Period1, Period2, Cryptochrome1, Cryptochrome2, Clock, Rora, Rev-Erb alpha and Npas2 mRNA levels showed a significant variation over the sampling period in LD cycles and in DD, whereas Bmal1 mRNA did not show any significant variation. In LL, the transcripts for Per1, Per2, Clock and Rev-Erb alpha showed significant temporal variations. In the dystrophic retina, only Per1 and Per2 mRNA levels showed a temporal variation over the 20-h period. Our work indicates that degeneration of the photoreceptor cells dramatically affected the expression levels and patterns of many clock genes. Finally, the present study suggests that investigating the expression pattern of clock genes using the whole retina or animals with photoreceptor degeneration may not provide any definitive answers about the working of the retinal circadian clock system.

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