Neuronal Myocyte-Specific Enhancer Factor 2D (MEF2D) Is Required for Normal Circadian and Sleep Behavior in Mice

J Neurosci. 2019 Oct 2;39(40):7958-7967. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0411-19.2019. Epub 2019 Aug 16.


The transcription factor, myocyte enhancer factor-2 (MEF2), is required for normal circadian behavior in Drosophila; however, its role in the mammalian circadian system has not been established. Of the four mammalian Mef2 genes, Mef2d is highly expressed in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the hypothalamus, a region critical for coordinating peripheral circadian clocks. Using both conventional and brain-specific Mef2d KO (Mef2d-/-) mouse lines, we demonstrate that MEF2D is essential for maintaining the length of the circadian free-running period of locomotor activity and normal sleep patterns in male mice. Crossing Mef2d-/- with Per2::luc reporter mice, we show that these behavioral changes are achieved without altering the endogenous period of the master circadian oscillator in the SCN. Together, our data suggest that alterations in behavior in Mef2d-/- mice may be the result of an effect on SCN output, rather than an effect on timekeeping within the SCN itself. These findings add to the growing body of evidence that MEF2 proteins play important roles in the brain.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT These studies are the first to show a role for MEF2 proteins in the brain outside of the hippocampus, and our findings suggest that these proteins may play diverse roles in the CNS. It is important to continue to build on our understanding of the roles of proteins acting in the SCN because SCN dysfunction underlies jet lag in humans and influences the response to shift work schedules, which are now known as risk factors for the development of cancer. Our work on MEF2D could be the basis for opening new lines of research in the development and regulation of circadian rhythms.

Keywords: MEF2D; circadian; sleep.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • CLOCK Proteins / biosynthesis
  • CLOCK Proteins / genetics
  • Circadian Rhythm / genetics*
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Light
  • MEF2 Transcription Factors / genetics
  • MEF2 Transcription Factors / physiology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • RNA / biosynthesis
  • RNA / genetics
  • Sleep / genetics*
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / genetics
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / psychology
  • Suprachiasmatic Nucleus / physiology


  • MEF2 Transcription Factors
  • Mef2d protein, mouse
  • RNA
  • CLOCK Proteins