Feeding and adrenal entrainment stimuli are both necessary for normal circadian oscillation of peripheral clocks in mice housed under different photoperiods

Chronobiol Int. 2015 Mar;32(2):195-210. doi: 10.3109/07420528.2014.962655. Epub 2014 Oct 6.


The mammalian circadian rhythm is entrained by multiple factors, including the light-dark cycle, the organism's feeding pattern and endocrine hormones such as glucocorticoids. Both a central clock (the suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN) and peripheral clocks (i.e. in the liver and lungs) in mice are entrained by photoperiod. However, the factors underlying entrainment signals from the SCN to peripheral clocks are not well known. To elucidate the role of entrainment factors such as corticosterone and feeding, we examined whether peripheral clock rhythms were impaired by adrenalectomy (ADX) and/or feeding of 6 meals per day at equal intervals under short-day, medium-day and long-day photoperiods (SP, MP and LP, respectively). We evaluated the waveform and phase of circadian rhythms in the liver, kidney and salivary gland by in vivo imaging of PER2::LUCIFERASE knock-in mice. In intact mice, the waveforms of the peripheral clocks were similar among all photoperiods. The phases of peripheral clocks were well adjusted by the timing of the "lights-off"-operated evening (E) oscillator but not the "lights-on"-operated morning (M) oscillator. ADX had almost no effect on the rhythmicity and phase of peripheral clocks, regardless of photoperiod. To reduce the feeding-induced signal, we placed mice on a restricted feeding regimen with 6 meals per day (6 meals RF). This caused advances of the peripheral clock phase in LP-housed mice (2-5 h) and MP-housed mice (1-2 h) but not SP-housed mice. Thus, feeding pattern may affect the phase of peripheral clocks, depending on photoperiod. More specifically, ADX + 6 meals RF mice showed impairment of circadian rhythms in the kidney and liver but not in the salivary gland, regardless of photoperiod. However, the impairment of peripheral clocks observed in ADX + 6 meals RF mice was reversed by administration of dexamethasone for 3 days. The phase differences in the salivary gland clock among SP-, MP- and LP-housed mice became very small following treatment with ADX + 6 meals RF, suggesting that the effect of photoperiod was reduced by ADX and 6 meals RF. Because the SCN rhythm (as evaluated by PER2 immunohistochemistry) was not disrupted by ADX + 6 meals RF, impairment of peripheral clocks in these mice was not because of impaired SCN clock function. In addition, locomotor activity rhythm and modifications of the feeding pattern may not be completely responsible for determining the phase of peripheral clocks. Thus, this study demonstrates that the phase of peripheral clocks responds to a photoperiodic lights-off signal, and suggests that signals from normal feeding patterns and the adrenal gland are necessary to maintain the oscillation and phase of peripheral clocks under various photoperiods.

Keywords: Adrenal; biological rhythm; feeding; photoperiod.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Glands / metabolism*
  • Adrenalectomy
  • Animals
  • Biological Clocks*
  • Circadian Rhythm*
  • Corticosterone / metabolism
  • Dexamethasone / metabolism
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Glucocorticoids / metabolism
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Light
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Inbred ICR
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Movement
  • Photoperiod*
  • Suprachiasmatic Nucleus / metabolism
  • Time Factors


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Dexamethasone
  • Corticosterone