Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers find genes connected to seasonal reproductive clock in hamsters

03.12.2002


Researchers at Ohio State University have identified three genes that are involved in the seasonal clock that determines when hamsters reproduce.



While researchers have learned a lot about reproductive clocks in some animals, this study is unique in helping uncover at least part of the genetic basis for determining how the reproductive system shuts off in the fall and restarts in time for spring.

“This study offers some of the first insights into how changes in gene expression are associated with a seasonal clock,” said Brian Prendergast, co-author of the study and a post-doctoral fellow in psychology at Ohio State University.


The study was published online last month and will appear in the Dec. 10 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

The researchers found that the three genes – transthyretin, T4-binding globulin, and albumin – were turned on or off as part of an internal clock in hamsters. These genes help regulate levels of thyroid hormones in the hypothalamus, which is involved in controlling the hamsters’ reproductive cycle.

Hamster reproductive cycles are tied to day length and the amount of daylight they are exposed to during part of the year, Prendergast said. But there’s an interesting catch.

As daylight shortens in the late fall and early winter, the reproductive organs of the hamsters respond by shutting down. In the male hamsters used in this study, the testes regress as daylight shortens. However, the reproductive system begins to turn back on in mid-winter – long before daylight starts to lengthen. The reason why this has to happen is simple: it takes one to two months for the reproductive system to redevelop and if the hamsters had to wait for the lengthening days of spring to start the process of regrowth, it would be too late.

“The short days of winter triggers a timer that shuts off the reproductive cycle,” Prendergast said. “But the timer ends in mid-winter and tells the brain to stop responding to the short days. That’s when the reproductive cycle starts again.”

The researchers found part of the genetic basis for why the reproductive system is able to turn back on in the middle of winter.

In their experiments, the researchers had three groups of hamsters. One group was kept in long days – such as they would have during the summer when they are reproducing – for the whole 32-week experiment. Others were kept in short days during the whole experiment. The third group was kept in long days for 20 weeks, then moved to short days for the final 12 weeks.

The researchers were interested to see what was happening in a part of the brain – called the hypothalamus – that plays an important role in controlling reproduction in hamsters.

After the 32 weeks, the researchers sacrificed the hamsters to see which genes were active in the hypothalamus and which were not, and whether it differed depending on what season the hamsters were kept in.

The results showed that the three genes were being expressed – in other words, they were turned on – in the hamsters that were kept constantly in short days or in long days. These genes produce proteins that help the hypothalamus take in thyroid hormones involved in the regulation of reproduction. In other words, the animals in both long and short days had high levels of thyroid hormones in the brain and therefore were able to respond to changes in day length.

That’s because hamsters need these thyroid hormones both when they are breeding and when the reproduction system shuts down in the winter. Prendergast explained that a different process – separate from the thyroid hormones examined in this study – seemed to be involved in shutting the reproductive system down for the winter.

But the researchers found that the hamsters also need thyroid hormones in the hypothalamus to keep the reproductive system shut down during the winter. If the hypothalamus does not continue to get these hormones, the reproductive system beings to automatically re-grow. So when mid-winter comes the internal clock of the hamsters stops these thyroid hormones from entering the hypothalamus – resulting in the re-growth of the reproductive system in time for the spring breeding season.

The researchers found that the three genes they studied were not being expressed significantly (in other words, they were turned off) in the hamsters who had been housed in short days for 32 weeks – the equivalent of normal hamsters in mid- to late winter. This means the hypothalamus in the hamsters would not be taking in thyroid hormones and their reproductive systems would begin to turn back on.

“These hamsters had lost their ability to respond to the signals of short days. This means that levels of thyroid hormones will drop in the hypothalamus and initiate the recovery of the reproductive system in mid-winter,” he said.

Overall, the studies show how the genes transthyretin, T4-binding globulin, and albumin allow the brain to regulate the levels of thyroid hormones in the hypothalamus, Prendergast said. This in turn regulates how the hamsters’ reproductive systems respond to changing seasons throughout the year.

“The availability of thyroid hormones influences the seasonal timekeeping mechanism,” he said.

Prendergast conducted the study with Bedrich Mosinger, a researcher at Ohio State’s Neurobiotechnology Center; Pappachan Kollattukudy, director of the Neurobiotechnology Center and professor of biochemistry; and Randy Nelson, professor of psychology.


Contact: Contact: Brian Prendergast, (614) 538-9540;
Brianp@psy.ohio-state.edu

Randy Nelson, (614) 247-6408; Rnelson@osu.edu

Brian Prendergast | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.osu.edu/researchnews/archive/geneseas.htm
http://www.acs.ohio-state.edu/units/research/
http://www.psy.ohio-state.edu/nelson/Brian.htm

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Scientists enlist engineered protein to battle the MERS virus
22.05.2017 | University of Toronto

nachricht Insight into enzyme's 3-D structure could cut biofuel costs
19.05.2017 | DOE/Los Alamos National Laboratory

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

Im Focus: Using graphene to create quantum bits

In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.

In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...

Im Focus: Bacteria harness the lotus effect to protect themselves

Biofilms: Researchers find the causes of water-repelling properties

Dental plaque and the viscous brown slime in drainpipes are two familiar examples of bacterial biofilms. Removing such bacterial depositions from surfaces is...

Im Focus: Hydrogen Bonds Directly Detected for the First Time

For the first time, scientists have succeeded in studying the strength of hydrogen bonds in a single molecule using an atomic force microscope. Researchers from the University of Basel’s Swiss Nanoscience Institute network have reported the results in the journal Science Advances.

Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe and is an integral part of almost all organic compounds. Molecules and sections of macromolecules are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

Innovation 4.0: Shaping a humane fourth industrial revolution

17.05.2017 | Event News

Media accreditation opens for historic year at European Health Forum Gastein

16.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New approach to revolutionize the production of molecular hydrogen

22.05.2017 | Materials Sciences

Scientists enlist engineered protein to battle the MERS virus

22.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Experts explain origins of topographic relief on Earth, Mars and Titan

22.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>