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Journal of Biological Rhythms

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Gall, A. J., Shuboni, D. D., Yan, L., Nunez, A. A., & Smale, L. (2016). Suprachiasmatic Nucleus and Subparaventricular Zone Lesions Disrupt Circadian Rhythmicity but Not Light-Induced Masking Behavior in Nile Grass Rats. Journal of Biological Rhythms, 31(2), 170–181. Copyright © 2016 The Author(s)


The ventral subparaventricular zone (vSPVZ) receives direct retinal input and influences the daily patterning of activity in rodents, making it a likely candidate for the mediation of acute behavioral responses to light (i.e., masking). We performed chemical lesions aimed at the vSPVZ of diurnal grass rats (Arvicanthis niloticus) using N-methyl-D,L-aspartic acid (NMA), a glutamate agonist. Following NMA lesions, we placed grass rats in various lighting conditions (e.g., 12:12 light-dark, constant dark, constant light); presented a series of light pulses at circadian times (CT) 6, 14, 18, and 22; and placed them in a 7-h ultradian cycle to assess behavioral masking. Extensive bilateral lesions of the vSPVZ disrupted the expression of circadian rhythms of activity and abolished the circadian modulation of masking responses to light, without affecting light-induced masking behavior per se. We also found that in diurnal grass rats, NMA was capable of destroying not only neurons of the vSPVZ but also those of the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), even though excitotoxins have been ineffective at destroying cells within the SCN of nocturnal rodents. The vulnerability of the grass rat's SCN to NMA toxicity raises the possibility of a difference in density of receptors for glutamate between nocturnal and diurnal species. In cases in which damage extended to the SCN, masking responses to light were present and similar to those displayed by animals with damage restricted to the vSPVZ. Thus, extensive bilateral lesions of the SCN and vSPVZ disrupted the expression of circadian rhythms without affecting acute responses to light in a diurnal species. Our present and previous results suggest that retinorecipient brain areas other than the SCN or vSPVZ, such as the intergeniculate leaflet or olivary pretectal nucleus, may be responsible for the mediation of masking responses to light in the diurnal grass rat.


suprachiasmatic nucleus, subparaventricular zone, lesions, masking, grass rat, diurnality