Placing ocular mutants into a functional context: a chronobiological approach.
Albrecht U., Foster RG.
The behavior of mammals is characterized by a 24-h cycle of rest and activity which is a fundamental adaption to the solar cycle of light and darkness. The pacemaker of this circadian clock is localized in the ventral part of the hypothalamus, the so-called suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN), and is entrained by light signals mediated by the eye. The eye is directly connected via the retinohypothalamic tract (RHT) to the SCN. Light that reaches the retina elicits glutamate release at the synaptic terminals of the RHT and influences the neurons in the SCN in a manner that alters the behavioral state of the animal. A light pulse that reaches the retina at the beginning of the night elicits a delay of the clock phase, whereas a light pulse that reaches the retina at the end of the dark period leads to an advance of the clock phase. This advance or delay can be quantified by measuring the change in onset of wheel-running activity. Such measurements have, and continue to provide, a remarkably powerful assay of how light is detected and transduced to regulate circadian rhythms. The methods used for such measurements in mice are described in the following article.