The development of circadian rhythms was examined in a precocious rodent species, the spiny mouse. Spiny mouse pups born and reared in constant darkness expressed robust circadian rhythms in locomotor activity as early as day 5 of life. Free-running activity rhythms of pups born and reared in constant darkness were coordinated with the dam on the day of birth. Postnatal maternal influences on pup rhythmicity are minimal in this species, as pups fostered on the day of birth to dams whose circadian phases were opposite to the pups' original dams were coordinated with their original dams on the day of birth. Studies using 2-deoxy-D-[1-14C]-glucose autoradiography showed that there were synchronous (coordinated) rhythms in metabolic activity in the maternal and fetal suprachiasmatic nuclei, directly demonstrating prenatal coordination of maternal and fetal rhythmicity. Maternal-fetal coordination of circadian phase was not the result of direct entrainment of the fetuses to the environmental light-dark cycle. These results demonstrate that there is prenatal communication of circadian phase in this precocious species, without demonstrable postnatal maternal influences on pup circadian rhythmicity. Spiny mice therefore represent an important animal model in which circadian rhythms in the postnatal period can be used to precisely assess prenatal influences on circadian phase.
- Copyright © 1987 the American Physiological Society