Chronic stimulation of the hypothalamic vasoactive intestinal peptide receptor lengthens circadian period in mice and hamsters.
Pantazopoulos H., Dolatshad H., Davis FC.
Evidence suggests that circadian rhythms are regulated through diffusible signals generated by the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). Vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) is located in SCN neurons positioned to receive photic input from the retinohypothalamic tract and transmit information to other SCN cells and adjacent hypothalamic areas. Studies using knockout mice indicate that VIP is essential for synchrony among SCN cells and for the expression of normal circadian rhythms. To test the hypothesis that VIP is also an SCN output signal, we recorded wheel-running activity rhythms in hamsters and continuously infused the VIP receptor agonist BAY 55-9837 in the third ventricle for 28 days. Unlike other candidate output signals, infusion of BAY 55-9837 did not affect activity levels. Instead, BAY 55-9837 lengthened the circadian period by 0.69 +/- 0.04 h (P < 0.0002 compared with controls). Period returned to baseline after infusions. We analyzed the effect of BAY 55-9837 on cultured SCN from PER2::LUC mice to determine if lengthening of the period by BAY 55-9837 is a direct effect on the SCN. Application of 10 muM BAY 55-9837 to SCN in culture lengthened the period of PER2 luciferase expression (24.73 +/- 0.24 h) compared with control SCN (23.57 +/- 0.26, P = 0.01). In addition, rhythm amplitude was significantly increased, consistent with increased synchronization of SCN neurons. The effect of BAY 55-9837 in vivo on period is similar to the effect of constant light. The present results suggest that VIP-VPAC2 signaling in the SCN may play two roles, synchronizing SCN neurons and setting the period of the SCN as a whole.