The suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) of the hypothalamus are the principal pacemaker in mammals, controlling daily, circadian rhythms in physiology and behaviour. Environmental light during development has long-term effects on circadian behaviour, but it is still unclear what the relevant adaptations within the brain are. In the present study, we examined the manifestation of the circadian rhythm of locomotor activity, and the expression of arginine-vasopressin (AVP) and vasointestinal polypeptide (VIP) in the SCN of adult mice reared under different light environments during the suckling period, and synchronised to light/dark cycles after weaning. We found that animals reared under constant light had higher amplitude and more stable activity rhythms, together with lower levels of VIP- and AVP-immunostaining in the SCN, compared to mice reared under light/dark cycles or constant darkness. Differences in AVP expression were also found in the paraventricular nucleus and the supraoptic nucleus, two brain areas which receive SCN projections. These results indicate that the postnatal light experience may affect clock function and clock output, and suggest implications for the control of hormonal homeostasis and circadian behaviour. © 2009 The Authors. Journal Compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.