The subterranean mole rat Spalax ehrenbergi superspecies represents an extreme example of adaptive visual and neuronal reorganization [1, 2]. Despite its total visual blindness, its daily activity rhythm is entrainable to light-dark cycles , indicating that it can confer light information to the clock. Although most individuals are active during the light phase under laboratory conditions (diurnal animals), some individuals switch their activity period to the night (nocturnal animals) [3, 4]. Similar to other rodents , the Spalax circadian clock is driven by a set of clock genes, including the period (sPer) genes [6, 7]. In this work, we show that diurnal mole rats express the Per genes sPer1 and sPer2 with a peak during the light period. Light can synchronize sPer gene expression to an altered light-dark cycle and thereby reset the clock. In contrast, nocturnal Spalax express sPer2 in the dark period and sPer1 in a biphasic manner, with a light-dependent maximum during the day and a second light-independent maximum during the night. Although sPer1 expression remains light inducible, this is not sufficient to reset the molecular clockwork. Hence, the strict coupling of light, Per expression, and the circadian clock is lost. This indicates that Spalax can dissociate the light-driven resetting pathway from the central clock oscillator.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)