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J Biol Rhythms. 1991 Summer;6(2):97-113.

Circadian locomotor rhythms, but not photoperiodic responses, survive surgical isolation of the SCN in hamsters.

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Psychology Department, Barnard College of Columbia University, New York, New York 10027.


Surgical isolation of the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) within a hypothalamic island is reported to produce loss of circadian rhythmicity. The results have been interpreted to indicate that SCN efferents are necessary for the expression of circadian rhythms. It is not clear, however, whether the loss of circadian rhythms in behavioral responses following SCN isolation is attributable to transection of efferents, to loss of cells within the island, or to gliosis produced by the knife cut. To explore this issue, we examined locomotor activity and gonadal state of male golden hamsters housed in constant darkness (DD, with a dim red light for maintenance) for at least 10 weeks following isolation of the SCN from the rest of the brain by cuts by means of a Halasz wire microknife. Brain sections were immunocytochemically stained for the peptides vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP), vasopressin (VP) or neurophysin II (NP II), and neuropeptide Y (NPY) to localize the SCN and to assess its viability, and for glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) to delimit the border of the knife cut. Experimental animals with VIP and VP/NP II immunoreactivity in the SCN within the island retained free-running locomotor rhythms following transection of SCN efferents. Animals with cuts that failed to sever SCN efferents, and sham-operated animals (in which the Halasz knife was lowered but not rotated), also maintained circadian rhythmicity. Hamsters sustaining severe damage to the SCN showed disrupted locomotor activity. In those hamsters that retained circadian locomotor rhythmicity following SCN isolation, gonads failed to regress in DD, demonstrating the absence of an appropriate photoperiodic response. The results suggest a multiplicity of SCN coupling mechanisms in the control of circadian rhythms.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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