In European newborn rabbits, once-daily nursing acts as a strong non-photic entraining cue for the pre-visual circadian system. Nevertheless, there is a lack of information regarding which of the non-photic cues are capable of modulating pup circadian system. In this study, for the first time, we determined that the mammary pheromone 2-methylbut-2-enal (2MB2) presented in the maternal milk acts as a non-photic entraining cue. We evaluated the effect of once-daily exposure to maternal olfactory cues on the temporal pattern of core body temperature, gross locomotor activity and metabolic variables (liver weight, serum glucose, triacylglycerides, free fatty acids, cholecystokinin and cholesterol levels) in newborn rabbits. Rabbit pups were separated from their mothers from postnatal day 1 (P1) to P8 and were randomly assigned to one of the following conditions: nursed by a lactating doe (NAT); exposed to a 3-min pulse of maternal milk (M-Milk), mammary pheromone (2MB2), or water (H?O). To eliminate maternal stimulation, the pups of the last three groups were artificially fed once every 24-h. On P8, the rabbits were sacrificed at different times of the day. In temperature and activity, the NAT, M-Milk and 2MB2 groups exhibited clear diurnal rhythmicity with a conspicuous anticipatory rise hours prior to nursing. In contrast, the H?O group exhibited atypical rhythmicity in both parameters, lacking the anticipatory component. At the metabolic level, all of the groups exhibited a diurnal pattern with similar phases in liver weight and metabolites examined. The results obtained in this study suggest that during pre-visual stages of development, the circadian system of newborn rabbits is sensitive to the maternal olfactory cues contained in milk, indicating that these cues function as non-photic entraining signals mainly for the central oscillators regulating the expression of temperature and behavior, whereas in metabolic diurnal rhythmicity, these cues lack an effect, indicating that peripheral oscillators respond to milk administration.
The rabbit is particularly suitable for investigating the development of mammalian circadian function. Blind at birth, the pups are only visited by the mother to be nursed once every 24 h for about 3 min and so can be studied largely without maternal interference. They anticipate the mothers visit with increased behavioral arousal and with a rise in body temperature, both of which represent endogenous circadian rhythms. We now report that in newborn pups the suprachiasmatic nuclei of the hypothalamus (SCN; the main circadian pacemaker in mammals) show endogenous 24-h rhythmicity in the expression of the clock genes Per1, Per2, and Bmal1. Pups nursed from postnatal days 1 to 7 and fasted to day 9 showed the same rhythms of clock gene expression as normally nursed controls. We also report that these rhythms are entrained by nursing. Pups killed on postnatal days 3-4 showed the same rhythms in gene expression as pups in the previous experiment, whereas littermates subsequently nursed from postnatal days 4 to 7 with nursing delayed 6 h showed a corresponding shift in the diurnal pattern of clock gene expression. Consistent with this, two groups of pups implanted with telemetric thermal sensors and nursed 6 h apart had daily patterns in body temperature synchronized with the two different nursing times. We conclude that the expression of clock genes associated with the newborn rabbits circadian system is entrained by nonphotic cues accompanying nursing, the exact nature of which now needs to be clarified.
During the last decade, lagomorphs have gained relevance as valuable models for the study of the development of circadian rhythmicity. This relevance is due to both the peculiar behavior of the lactating doe, in which maternal care is limited from 3 to 5 min per day, and the temporal organization that newborn rabbits exhibit during the early stages of development. In this study, we characterized the development of the temporal pattern of core body temperature and locomotor activity of newborn rabbits. This activity was recorded simultaneously for individual newborn rabbits and was maintained under constant light conditions, a 24-h nursing schedule and without access to the lactating doe. In addition, different mathematical algorithms were designed to determine the period, phase and anticipatory component of the time series obtained for the newborn rabbits. During the first two weeks of life, the average gross locomotor activity decreased as age increased; conversely however, the core body temperature exhibited a significant increment during the early stages of postnatal development. The newborn rabbits circadian patterns of activity and temperature were consolidated as early as the first week of life. Similarly, the acrophase and nadir of both rhythms were settled by postnatal day 5, and the maximum activity consistently occurred approximately 2 h before the animals maximum body temperature. The anticipation of nursing was evident from postnatal day 2 for both parameters, and the duration and intensity showed changes associated with the stage of development. In addition, the anticipatory component persisted with the same duration and intensity, even when nursing was omitted. The mathematical methods used in this study are suitable for producing unbiased analyses of the time series that are obtained from developing animals in situations during which biological signals generally show variability in frequencies and trends. By using these methods, it was possible to establish that circadian rhythmicity at the behavioral and physiological levels was evident during the first week of age in newborn rabbits. This circadian rhythmicity represents an endogenous rhythm because it persists throughout constant conditions.
Related JoVE Video
Journal of Visualized Experiments
What is Visualize?
JoVE Visualize is a tool created to match the last 5 years of PubMed publications to methods in JoVE's video library.
How does it work?
We use abstracts found on PubMed and match them to JoVE videos to create a list of 10 to 30 related methods videos.
Video X seems to be unrelated to Abstract Y...
In developing our video relationships, we compare around 5 million PubMed articles to our library of over 4,500 methods videos. In some cases the language used in the PubMed abstracts makes matching that content to a JoVE video difficult. In other cases, there happens not to be any content in our video library that is relevant to the topic of a given abstract. In these cases, our algorithms are trying their best to display videos with relevant content, which can sometimes result in matched videos with only a slight relation.