, 2001; Demas & Bartness, 2001), ovarian function (Gerendai et al., 1998, 2000; Gerendai & Halasz, 2000), and thyroid function (Kalsbeek et al., 2000). It is likely that neural connections from the SCN to peripheral glands and organs may be universal for all targets in the body. Given the technical limitations of these tracers, it is not surprising that several questions
still remain. For example, does the SCN employ the same cell phenotype(s) to communicate to all organs and glands? Does the SCN communicate with one neurochemical mediator, or a combination of neurochemical mediators, to set the phase of subordinate oscillators? Is sympathetic and parasympathetic control of peripheral tissues controlled Selleck R428 by the same SCN cell phenotypes? BTK inhibitor Technical innovations now permit an assessment of projections from specific neuropeptidergic
cell phenotypes using viral tracers driven by specific gene promoters. By applying these tools to the SCN, important insight can be gained into the specific modalities by which the SCN communicates to central and peripheral targets. In addition to monosynaptic and multisynaptic neural projections, several early lines of evidence suggested that a diffusible signal from the SCN can sustain behavioral rhythmicity. First, in early studies of SCN-lesioned hamsters, locomotor rhythmicity and rhythmic gnawing behavior are restored following grafting of fetal SCN tissue into the third ventricle of the lesioned host (Lehman et al., 1987, 1995; Ralph et al., 1990; LeSauter & Silver, 1994). Postmortem analysis indicated that few connections were made between the graft and the host brain, suggesting that the re-establishment of rhythmic behavior did not result from the restoration of SCN projections (Aguilar-Roblero et al., 1994; Lehman et al., 1995). Furthermore, when an ‘SCN island’ is created with a Halasz knife, animals recover free-running rhythms, even though efferent fibers from the SCN have been severed (Inouye & Kawamura, 1979). Although it is possible that efferent fibers may have grown across the knife cut to form correct synaptic connections, there is no evidence of such plasticity in the mammalian brain. selleck compound More direct evidence for the existence
of a diffusible SCN signal was gained by transplanting SCN grafts encapsulated in a semi-porous membrane that permitted diffusible, but not neural, outflow into an SCN-lesioned host (Silver et al., 1996). In cases with viable grafts, circadian locomotor rhythms were restored with the period of the donor animal. These results demonstrate that the transplanted biological clock can regulate rhythmicity by means of a diffusible signal. Whether or not such a diffusible signal drives behavioral rhythms under natural conditions has been a more challenging question. Several candidate diffusible signals have been investigated since these initial findings, including prokineticin-2 (Cheng et al., 2002), transforming growth factor-alpha, and cardiotrophin-like cytokine (Kramer et al.