Early rhythmicity in the fetal suprachiasmatic nuclei in response to maternal signals detected by omics approach

PLoS Biol. 2022 May 24;20(5):e3001637. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3001637. eCollection 2022 May.


The suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) of the hypothalamus harbor the central clock of the circadian system, which gradually matures during the perinatal period. In this study, time-resolved transcriptomic and proteomic approaches were used to describe fetal SCN tissue-level rhythms before rhythms in clock gene expression develop. Pregnant rats were maintained in constant darkness and had intact SCN, or their SCN were lesioned and behavioral rhythm was imposed by temporal restriction of food availability. Model-selecting tools dryR and CompareRhythms identified sets of genes in the fetal SCN that were rhythmic in the absence of the fetal canonical clock. Subsets of rhythmically expressed genes were assigned to groups of fetuses from mothers with either intact or lesioned SCN, or both groups. Enrichment analysis for GO terms and signaling pathways revealed that neurodevelopment and cell-to-cell signaling were significantly enriched within the subsets of genes that were rhythmic in response to distinct maternal signals. The findings discovered a previously unexpected breadth of rhythmicity in the fetal SCN at a developmental stage when the canonical clock has not yet developed at the tissue level and thus likely represents responses to rhythmic maternal signals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Circadian Rhythm* / genetics
  • Female
  • Fetus / physiology
  • Hypothalamus
  • Pregnancy
  • Proteomics*
  • Rats
  • Suprachiasmatic Nucleus / metabolism

Grant support

The study was supported by the Czech Science Foundation grant number 19-01845S (to A.S.) and the Research Project RV0: 67985823. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.