Tuberoinfundibular dopamine (TIDA) neurons are the central regulators of prolactin (PRL) secretion. Their extensive functional plasticity allows a change from low PRL secretion in the non-pregnant state to the condition of hyperprolactinemia that characterizes lactation. To allow this rise in PRL, TIDA neurons are thought to become unresponsive to PRL at lactation and functionally silenced. Here we show that, contrary to expectations, the electrical properties of the system were not modified during lactation and that the neurons remained electrically responsive to a PRL stimulus, with PRL inducing an acute increase in their firing rate during lactation that was identical to that seen in non-pregnant mice. Furthermore, we show a long-term organization of TIDA neuron electrical activity with an harmonization of their firing rates, which remains intact during lactation. However, PRL-induced secretion of dopamine (DA) at the median eminence was strongly blunted during lactation, at least in part attributable to lack of phosphorylation of tyrosine hydroxylase, the key enzyme involved in DA synthesis. We therefore conclude that lactation, rather than involving electrical silencing of TIDA neurons, represents a condition of decoupling between electrical activity at the cell body and DA secretion at the median eminence.
The circadian clock comprises a set of genes involved in cell-autonomous transcriptional feedback loops that orchestrate the expression of a range of downstream genes, driving circadian patterns of behavior. Cognitive dysfunction, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse disorders have been associated with disruptions in circadian rhythm and circadian clock genes, but the causal relationship of these associations is still poorly understood. In the present study, we investigate the effect of genetic disruption of the circadian clock, through deletion of both paralogs of the core gene cryptochrome (Cry1 and Cry2). Mice lacking Cry1 and Cry2 (Cry1(-/-)Cry2(-/-) ) displayed attenuated dark phase and novelty-induced locomotor activity. Moreover, they showed impaired recognition memory but intact fear memory. Depression-related behaviors in the forced swim test or sucrose preference tests were unaffected but Cry1(-/-)Cry2(-/-) mice displayed increased anxiety in the open field and elevated plus maze tests. Finally, hyperlocomotion and striatal phosphorylation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) induced by a single cocaine administration are strongly reduced in Cry1(-/-)Cry2(-/-) mice. Interestingly, only some behavioral measures were affected in mice lacking either Cry1 or Cry2. Notably, recognition memory was impaired in both Cry1(-/-)Cry2(+/+) and Cry1(+/+)Cry2(-/-) mice. Moreover, we further observed elevated anxiety in Cry1(-/-)Cry2(+/+) and Cry1(+/+)Cry2(-/-) mice. Our data indicate that beyond their role in the control of circadian rhythm, cryptochrome genes have a direct influence in cognitive function, anxiety-related behaviors and sensitivity to psychostimulant drugs.
During gestation, parturition, and lactation, the endocrine axis of the dam must continually adapt to ensure the continual and healthy development of offspring. The anterior pituitary gland, which serves as the endocrine interface between the brain and periphery, undergoes adaptations that contribute to regulation of the reproductive axis. Growth factors and their receptors are potential candidates for intrapituitary and paracrine factors to participate in the functional and anatomical plasticity of the gland. We examined the involvement of the growth factor glial cell-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) and its receptor tyrosine kinase rearranged during transfection (Ret) in the physiological functional and anatomical plasticity of the anterior pituitary gland. We found that variations in both expression and subcellular localization of Ret during gestation and lactation are temporally correlated with changes in pituitary gland function. We showed that Ret/GDNF signaling could endorse two different functional roles depending on the physiological status. At the end of lactation and after weaning, Ret was colocalized with markers of apoptosis. We found that Ret could therefore act as a physiological dependence receptor capable of inducing apoptosis in the absence of GDNF. In addition, we identified the follicullostellate cell as a probable source for intrapituitary GDNF and proposed GDNF as a potential physiological modulator of endocrine cell function. During all stages studied, we showed that acute application of GDNF to pituitary slices was able to modulate both positively and negatively intracellular calcium activity. Altogether our results implicate Ret/GDNF as a potent pleiotropic factor able to influence pituitary physiology during a period of high plasticity.
There are well-recognized sex differences in many pituitary endocrine axes, usually thought to be generated by gonadal steroid imprinting of the neuroendocrine hypothalamus. However, the recognition that growth hormone (GH) cells are arranged in functionally organized networks raises the possibility that the responses of the network are different in males and females. We studied this by directly monitoring the calcium responses to an identical GH-releasing hormone (GHRH) stimulus in populations of individual GH cells in slices taken from male and female murine GH-eGFP pituitary glands. We found that the GH cell network responses are sexually dimorphic, with a higher proportion of responding cells in males than in females, correlated with greater GH release from male slices. Repetitive waves of calcium spiking activity were triggered by GHRH in some males, but were never observed in females. This was not due to a permanent difference in the network architecture between male and female mice; rather, the sex difference in the proportions of GH cells responding to GHRH were switched by postpubertal gonadectomy and reversed with hormone replacements, suggesting that the network responses are dynamically regulated in adulthood by gonadal steroids. Thus, the pituitary gland contributes to the sexually dimorphic patterns of GH secretion that play an important role in differences in growth and metabolism between the sexes.
The mammalian circadian system is composed of multiple peripheral clocks that are synchronized by a central pacemaker in the suprachiasmatic nuclei of the hypothalamus. This system keeps track of the external world rhythms through entrainment by various time cues, such as the light-dark cycle and the feeding schedule. Alterations of photoperiod and meal time modulate the phase coupling between central and peripheral oscillators. In this study, we used real-time quantitative PCR to assess circadian clock gene expression in the liver and pituitary gland from mice raised under various photoperiods, or under a temporal restricted feeding protocol. Our results revealed unexpected differences between both organs. Whereas the liver oscillator always tracked meal time, the pituitary circadian clockwork showed an intermediate response, in between entrainment by the light regimen and the feeding-fasting rhythm. The same composite response was also observed in the pituitary gland from adrenalectomized mice under daytime restricted feeding, suggesting that circulating glucocorticoids do not inhibit full entrainment of the pituitary clockwork by meal time. Altogether our results reveal further aspects in the complexity of phase entrainment in the circadian system, and suggest that the pituitary may host oscillators able to integrate multiple time cues.
By regulating the metabolism of fatty acids, carbohydrates, and xenobiotic, the mammalian circadian clock plays a fundamental role on the liver physiology. At present, it is supposed that the circadian clock regulates metabolism mostly by regulating the expression of liver enzymes at the transcriptional level. However, recent evidences suggest that some signaling pathways synchronized by the circadian clock can also influence metabolism at a post-transcriptional level. In this context, we have recently shown that the circadian clock synchronizes the rhythmic activation of the IRE1alpha pathway in the endoplasmic reticulum. The absence of circadian clock perturbs this secondary clock, provokes deregulation of endoplasmic reticulum-localized enzymes, and leads to impaired lipid metabolism. We will describe here the additional pathways synchronized by the clock and discussed the influence of the circadian clock-controlled feeding rhythm on them.
In mammals, males and females exhibit anatomical, hormonal, and metabolic differences. A major example of such sex dimorphism in mouse involves hepatic drug metabolism, which is also a noticeable target of circadian timekeeping. However, whether the circadian clock itself contributes to sex-biased metabolism has remained unknown, although several daily output parameters differ between sexes in a number of species, including humans. Here we show that dimorphic liver metabolism is altered when the circadian regulators Cryptochromes, Cry1 and Cry2, are inactivated. Indeed, double mutant Cry1(-/-) Cry2(-/-) male mice that lack a functional circadian clock express a number of sex-specific liver products, including several cytochrome P450 enzymes, at levels close to those measured in females. In addition, body growth of Cry-deficient mice is impaired, also in a sex-biased manner, and this phenotype goes along with an altered pattern of circulating growth hormone (GH) in mutant males, specifically. It is noteworthy that hormonal injections able to mimic male GH pulses reversed the feminized gene expression profile in the liver of Cry1(-/-) Cry2(-/-) males. Altogether, our observations suggest that the 24-h clock paces the dimorphic ultradian pulsatility of GH that is responsible for sex-dependent liver activity. We thus conclude that circadian timing, sex dimorphism, and liver metabolism are finely interconnected.
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