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Chronobiol Int. 2011 Feb;28(1):31-8. doi: 10.3109/07420528.2010.532894.

Circadian periods of sensitivity for ramelteon on the onset of running-wheel activity and the peak of suprachiasmatic nucleus neuronal firing rhythms in C3H/HeN mice.

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Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Biological Chemistry, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois, USA.


Ramelteon, an MT(1)/MT(2) melatonin receptor agonist, is used for the treatment of sleep-onset insomnia and circadian sleep disorders. Ramelteon phase shifts circadian rhythms in rodents and humans when given at the end of the subjective day; however, its efficacy at other circadian times is not known. Here, the authors determined in C3H/HeN mice the maximal circadian sensitivity for ramelteon in vivo on the onset of circadian running-wheel activity rhythms, and in vitro on the peak of circadian rhythm of neuronal firing in suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) brain slices. The phase response curve (PRC) for ramelteon (90 µg/mouse, subcutaneous [sc]) on circadian wheel-activity rhythms shows maximal sensitivity during the late mid to end of the subjective day, between CT8 and CT12 (phase advance), and late subjective night and early subjective day, between CT20 and CT2 (phase delay), using a 3-day-pulse treatment regimen in C3H/HeN mice. The PRC for ramelteon resembles that for melatonin in C3H/HeN mice, showing the same magnitude of maximal shifts at CT10 and CT2, except that the range of sensitivity for ramelteon (CT8-CT12) during the subjective day is broader. Furthermore, in SCN brain slices in vitro, ramelteon (10 pM) administered at CT10 phase advances (5.6 ± 0.29 h, n = 3) and at CT2 phase delays (-3.2 ± 0.12 h, n = 6) the peak of circadian rhythm of neuronal firing, with the shifts being significantly larger than those induced by melatonin (10 pM) at the same circadian times (CT10: 2.7 ± 0.15 h, n = 4, p < .05; CT2: -1.13 ± 0.08 h, n = 6, p < .001, respectively). The phase shifts induced by both melatonin and ramelteon in the SCN brain slice at either CT10 or CT2 corresponded with the period of sensitivity observed in vivo. In conclusion, melatonin and ramelteon showed identical periods of circadian sensitivity at CT10 (advance) and CT2 (delay) to shift the onset of circadian activity rhythms in vivo and the peak of SCN neuronal firing rhythms in vitro.

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