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Am J Physiol. 1983 Jan;244(1):R93-105.

Sex differences in the circadian control of hamster wheel-running activity.


The circadian pacemaker that underlies the wheel-running activity of hamsters was studied in males and females. Sex differences were found in the mechanism by which the pacemaker entrains to light-dark cycles and in the timing of activity onset. When exposed to a light-dark cycle with a period of 24.75 h (with 1 h of light/cycle), males show a greater ability to maintain entrainment than do females. This difference in the upper limit of entrainment appears due to a sex difference in the magnitude of light-induced phase shifts. A small difference in free-running period may also contribute to the sex difference in entrainment. Two weeks after castration of adults, the sex difference in entrainment is not affected, indicating that the difference does not depend on circulating gonadal steroids or on estrous cyclicity of the female. However, castration of females at an early age increases their ability to entrain, whereas long-term castration of males seems to reduce entrainment ability. During entrainment to a 24-h light-dark cycle (LD 14:10), females were found to begin their daily activity before males and before castrated females. This difference is consistent with a sex difference in the magnitude of light-induced phase shifts and in entrainment of the pacemaker. However, evidence is given that the sex difference in activity onset might also be caused by a sex difference in the relationship of locomotor activity to the pacemaker in intact males and females.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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