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Open Access Research

Mice with early retinal degeneration show differences in neuropeptide expression in the suprachiasmatic nucleus

Linda Ruggiero123, Charles N Allen1, R Lane Brown4 and David W Robinson1*

Author Affiliations

1 Center for Research on Occupational and Environmental Toxicology, Oregon Health & Science University, (3181 SW Sam Jackson Park Road), Portland, (97239) USA

2 Neuroscience Graduate Program, Oregon Health & Science University, (3181 SW Sam Jackson Park Road), Portland, (97239) USA

3 Department of Biology, Fordham University, (441 E Fordham Rd), Bronx, (14058) USA

4 Department of Veterinary & Comparative Anatomy, Pharmacology, and Physiology, Washington State University, (205 Wegner Hall), Pullman, (99164), USA

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Behavioral and Brain Functions 2010, 6:36  doi:10.1186/1744-9081-6-36

Published: 6 July 2010

Abstract

Background

In mammals, the brain clock responsible for generating circadian rhythms is located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the hypothalamus. Light entrainment of the clock occurs through intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs) whose axons project to the SCN via the retinohypothalamic tract. Although ipRGCs are sufficient for photoentrainment, rod and cone photoreceptors also contribute. Adult CBA/J mice, which exhibit loss of rod and cone photoreceptors during early postnatal development, have greater numbers of ipRGCs compared to CBA/N control mice. A greater number of photosensitive cells might argue for enhanced light responses, however, these mice exhibit attenuated phase shifting behaviors. To reconcile these findings, we looked for potential differences in SCN neurons of CBA/J mice that might underly the altered circadian behaviors. We hypothesized that CBA/J mice have differences in the expression of neuropeptides in the SCN, where ipRGCs synapse. The neuropeptides vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) and vasopressin (VP) are expressed by many SCN neurons and play an important role in the generation of circadian rhythms and photic entrainment.

Methods

Using immunohistochemistry, we looked for differences in the expression of VIP and VP in the SCN of CBA/J mice, and using a light-induced FOS assay, we also examined the degree of retinal innervation of the SCN by ipRGCs.

Results

Our data demonstrate greater numbers of VIP-and VP-positive cells in the SCN of CBA/J mice and a greater degree of light-induced FOS expression.

Conclusions

These results implicate changes in neuropeptide expression in the SCN which may underlie the altered circadian responses to light in these animals.