Impact of chronodisruption during primate pregnancy on the maternal and newborn temperature rhythms

PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e57710. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0057710. Epub 2013 Feb 28.


Disruption of the maternal environment during pregnancy is a key contributor to offspring diseases that develop in adult life. To explore the impact of chronodisruption during pregnancy in primates, we exposed pregnant capuchin monkeys to constant light (eliminating the maternal melatonin rhythm) from the last third of gestation to term. Maternal temperature and activity circadian rhythms were assessed as well as the newborn temperature rhythm. Additionally we studied the effect of daily maternal melatonin replacement during pregnancy on these rhythms. Ten pregnant capuchin monkeys were exposed to constant light from 60% of gestation to term. Five received a daily oral dose of melatonin (250 µg kg/body weight) at 1800 h (LL+Mel) and the other five a placebo (LL). Six additional pregnant females were maintained in a 14∶10 light:dark cycles and their newborns were used as controls (LD). Rhythms were recorded 96 h before delivery in the mother and at 4-6 days of age in the newborn. Exposure to constant light had no effect on the maternal body temperature rhythm however it delayed the acrophase of the activity rhythm. Neither rhythm was affected by melatonin replacement. In contrast, maternal exposure to constant light affected the newborn body temperature rhythm. This rhythm was entrained in control newborns whereas LL newborns showed a random distribution of the acrophases over 24-h. In addition, mean temperature was decreased (34.0±0.6 vs 36.1±0.2°C, in LL and control, respectively P<0.05). Maternal melatonin replacement during pregnancy re-synchronized the acrophases and restored mean temperature to the values in control newborns. Our findings demonstrate that prenatal melatonin is a Zeitgeber for the newborn temperature rhythm and supports normal body temperature maintenance. Altogether these prenatal melatonin effects highlight the physiological importance of the maternal melatonin rhythm during pregnancy for the newborn primate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Behavior, Animal / radiation effects
  • Cebus
  • Circadian Rhythm / drug effects
  • Circadian Rhythm / radiation effects*
  • Female
  • Light*
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure / adverse effects
  • Melatonin / pharmacology
  • Mothers*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Third / drug effects
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Third / physiology
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Third / radiation effects
  • Temperature*
  • Time Factors


  • Melatonin

Grant support

Funding came from FONDECYT-LINEAS COMPLEMENTARIAS 1998-8980006, FONDECYT 1090381 and Conicyt Anillo ACT-1116. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript