Early programming of astrocyte organization in the mouse suprachiasmatic nuclei by light

Maria Mercè Canal, Nimco Mose Mohammed, José Julio Rodríguez

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    The principal pacemaker in mammals, controlling physiology and behavior, is located in the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) of the hypothalamus. Early photic experience has long-term effects on the animal's rhythmic behavior, as indicated by alterations in the phase shift induced by a light pulse, and in the expression of the circadian rhythm of locomotor activity under light-dark (LD), constant light (LL), and constant darkness (DD) environments. However, the brain substrates targeted by early light have not yet been identified. Possible candidates are astrocytes, as they develop postnatally in parallel to the circadian system, and are involved in SCN function by modulating intercellular communication and mediating photic input. Here, we reared three groups of mice under different light environments (LD, LL, and DD) during the suckling period. Later on, all mice were entrained to LD, and we determined associated astrocytic modifications by examining the expression of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) in the SCN. We observed that although LL-reared mice showed lowest GFAP expression in the SCN, as determined by quantification of immunostaining levels, the number of GFAP-positive cells was highest in this group, suggesting structural remodelling of SCN astrocytes by early light experience. These results indicate the postnatal light environment has long-term effects on the astrocytic population of the SCN. We argue that these neurochemical and structural alterations may affect clock function, which may in turn modify animal behavior © 2009 Informa Healthcare USA, Inc.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1545-1558
    Number of pages13
    JournalChronobiology International
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2009


    • Circadian rhythm
    • Development
    • GFAP
    • Light
    • Locomotor activity
    • Plasticity
    • Suprachiasmatic nuclei


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