Identification of the suprachiasmatic nucleus in birds

T. Yoshimura, S. Yasuo, Y. Suzuki, E. Makino, Y. Yokota, S. Ebihara

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74 Citations (Scopus)


Circadian rhythms are generated by an internal biological clock. The suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in the hypothalamus is known to be the dominant biological clock regulating circadian rhythms in mammals. In birds, two nuclei, the so-called medial SCN (mSCN) and the visual SCN (vSCN), have both been proposed to be the avian SCN. However, it remains an unsettled question which nuclei are homologous to the mammalian SCN. We have identified circadian clock genes in Japanese quail and demonstrated that these genes are expressed in known circadian oscillators, the pineal and the retina. Here, we report that these clock genes are expressed in the mSCN but not in the vSCN in Japanese quail, Java sparrow, chicken, and pigeon. In addition, mSCN lesions eliminated or disorganized circadian rhythms of locomotor activity under constant dim light, but did not eliminate entrainment under light-dark (LD) cycles in pigeon. However, the lesioned birds became completely arrhythmic even under LD after the pineal and the eye were removed. These results indicate that the mSCN is a circadian oscillator in birds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)R1185-R1189
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number4 49-4
Publication statusPublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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