Comparative analysis of the molecular basis of photoperiodic signal transduction in vertebrates

Shinobu Yasuo, Takashi Yoshimura

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28 Citations (Scopus)


In temperate zones, the reproductive physiology of most vertebrates is controlled by changes in photoperiod. Mechanisms for the regulation of photoperiodic gonadal responses are known to differ between mammals and birds: in mammals, melatonin is the photoperiodic signal messenger, whereas in birds, photoperiodic information is received by deep brain photoreceptors. Recently, the molecular mechanism of photoperiodism has been revealed by studies on Japanese quail, which exhibit a most remarkable responsiveness to photoperiod among vertebrates, and molecular cascades involved in photoperiodism have been elucidated. Long-day stimulus induces expression of the β-subunit of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH-β) in the pars tuberalis (PT) of the pituitary gland, and TSH derived from the PT regulates reciprocal switching of genes encoding types 2 and 3 deiodinases (Dio2 and Dio3, respectively) in the mediobasal hypothalamus (MBH) by retrograde action. Dio2 locally converts prohormone thyroxine (T4) to bioactive triiodothyronine (T3) in the MBH, which subsequently stimulates the gonadal axis. These events have been confirmed to occur in mammals with seasonal breeding, such as hamsters and sheep, suggesting that similar mechanisms are involved among various vertebrates. In addition, nonphotoperiodic mice also appeared to possess the same molecular mechanisms at the hypothalamo-hypophysial level. It has been noted that melatonin regulates the above-mentioned key genes (Dio2, Dio3, and TSH-β) in mammals, while photoperiod directly regulates these genes in birds. Thus, the input pathway of photoperiod is different between mammals and birds (i.e., melatonin versus light); however, the essential mechanisms are conserved among these vertebrates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)507-518
Number of pages12
JournalIntegrative and Comparative Biology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2009
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Plant Science


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