Developmental study in the circadian clock of the golden hamster: a putative role of astrocytes

Brain Res Dev Brain Res. 1995 May 26;86(1-2):275-82. doi: 10.1016/0165-3806(95)00039-g.


The hypothalamic suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) house the circadian clock in the mammalian brain. A glial fibrillary acidic protein immunoreactivity (GFAP-ir) distribution rhythm has been observed in the SCN of adult Syrian hamster. The implication of astrocytes in photic entrainment was analyzed through developmental studies of the photic pathway and of SCN astrocytes appearance. Using anterograde tracing we studied the timing of penetration of the retinohypothalamic tract (RHT) fibers into the SCN. Using c-fos induction by light we followed the maturation of RHT synapses in the SCN. When RHT terminals reach the SCN, c-fos induction can be obtained. Using GFAP immunoreactivity we demonstrated that the number of astrocytes increased in parallel with RHT development from PN5 to PN15. At PN15, a time when pups can shift from maternal to photic entrainment, RHT terminals and GFAP-ir exhibit an adult-like pattern. One demonstrated role of astrocytes is to control extracellular glutamate concentration. Glutamate is the neurotransmitter released at RHT terminals; its content fluctuates according to a circadian rhythm within the SCN. Thus the present data tend to indicate that SCN astrocytes are participating in the circadian rhythm of SCN glutamate content.

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Astrocytes / physiology*
  • Biological Clocks*
  • Cholera Toxin
  • Circadian Rhythm*
  • Cricetinae
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein / metabolism
  • Light
  • Mesocricetus
  • Neural Pathways / growth & development
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / radiation effects
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos / metabolism
  • Retina / growth & development
  • Retina / physiology*
  • Retina / radiation effects
  • Suprachiasmatic Nucleus / growth & development
  • Suprachiasmatic Nucleus / physiology*
  • Suprachiasmatic Nucleus / radiation effects
  • Vimentin / metabolism


  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos
  • Vimentin
  • Cholera Toxin