Author(s): Kazimi N, Cahill GM
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Abstract We investigated the time course of circadian system development in zebrafish and the role of environmental light cycles in this process, using a rhythm in melatonin content of embryos and larvae as a marker of circadian function. When zebrafish were raised in a cycle of 14 h light and 10 h dark at 28.5 degrees C, nocturnal increases in melatonin content were detectable beginning on the second night post-fertilization (PF). When embryos were transferred to constant darkness (DD) at the end of the second light period, a circadian rhythm of melatonin content persisted for at least three cycles. However, when embryos were transferred from light to DD at 14 h PF, no rhythm was detectable in the population. Phase-locked circadian melatonin rhythms were measurable after embryos were exposed to a transition from constant light (LL) to darkness at 26 or 32 h PF, but not at 20 h. These data indicate that a circadian oscillator that regulates melatonin synthesis becomes functional and responsive by light between 20 and 26 h PF. At this stage, pineal photoreceptors have begun to differentiate, but retinal photoreceptors have not, suggesting that the first circadian melatonin rhythms are of pineal origin. The absence of melatonin rhythms in populations of embryos exposed to DD beginning at earlier stages indicates that there is no timed developmental event that sets the circadian clock in the absence of environmental input. Exposure to DD starting at 14 or 20 h PF did not retard overall development as determined by gross morphological staging criteria, and did not prevent later synchronization of melatonin rhythms by light-dark (LD) cycles.
This article was published in Brain Res Dev Brain Res
and referenced in Journal of Membrane Science & Technology