Olde Engberink, A. H. O., Huisman, J., Michel, S., & Meijer, J. H. (2020). Brief light exposure at dawn and dusk can encode day-length in the neuronal network of the mammalian circadian pacemaker. Faseb J, in press, in press.
Abstract: The central circadian pacemaker in mammals, the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), is important for daily as well as seasonal rhythms. The SCN encodes seasonal changes in day length by adjusting phase distribution among oscillating neurons thereby shaping the output signal used for adaptation of physiology and behavior. It is well-established that brief light exposure at the beginning and end of the day, also referred to as “skeleton” light pulses, are sufficient to evoke the seasonal behavioral phenotype. However, the effect of skeleton light exposure on SCN network reorganization remains unknown. Therefore, we exposed mice to brief morning and evening light pulses that mark the time of dawn and dusk in a short winter- or a long summer day. Single-cell PER2::LUC recordings, electrophysiological recordings of SCN activity, and measurements of GABA response polarity revealed that skeleton light-regimes affected the SCN network to the same degree as full photoperiod. These results indicate the powerful, yet potentially harmful effects of even relatively short light exposures during the evening or night for nocturnal animals.