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In mammals, the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the hypothalamus functions as the primary pacemaker of the circadian system. Light has been shown to induce Fos-like immunoreactivity (Fos-LI) in the SCN of rats and hamsters. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate extensively the effect of light on Fos-LI in the mouse SCN. Brief pulses of light administered to animals otherwise in constant darkness were found to induce Fos-LI. This photic induction was unaffected by the rd mutation, which causes the profound loss of photoreceptors but fails to affect circadian responses to light. Light regulation of Fos-LI was dependent upon the phase of the circadian cycle in which the light pulse was administered. Phases at which light causes phase shifts of the circadian system were permissive for Fos-LI induction (CT 16 and 24), while phases in which light does not cause phase shifts were not permissive (CT 6 and 9). The time course of the induction at CT 16 was also described. In a light/dark cycle, Fos-LI was found to be rhythmically expressed with Fos-LI elevated soon after the lights came on but remaining low throughout the rest of the cycle. However, this rhythm is a direct consequence of the light because in constant darkness Fos-LI was always low. These results have implications regarding the possible functional roles of Fos in the circadian system and add to our understanding of light regulation of circadian physiology in the mouse.

Original publication




Journal article


J Comp Neurol

Publication Date





135 - 142


Animals, Circadian Rhythm, Immunohistochemistry, Male, Mice, Mice, Inbred Strains, Mice, Neurologic Mutants, Muridae, Oncogene Proteins v-fos, Photic Stimulation, Suprachiasmatic Nucleus