The circadian body temperature rhythm of Djungarian Hamsters (Phodopus sungorus) revealing different circadian phenotypes

Abstract: Djungarian hamsters (Phodopus sungorus) of our breeding stock show three rhythmic phenotypes: wild type (WT) animals which start their activity shortly after “lights-off” and are active until “lights-on”; delayed activity onset (DAO) hamsters whose activity onset is delayed after “lights-off” but activity offset coincides with “lights-on”; and arrhythmic hamsters (AR) that are episodically active throughout the 24-h day. The main aim of the present study was to investigate whether the observed phenotypic differences are caused by an altered output from the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN). As a marker of the circadian clock, the body temperature rhythm purified from masking effects due to motor activity was used. Hamsters were kept singly under standardized laboratory conditions (L:D=14:10h, T: 22°C±2°C, food and water ad libitum). Body temperature and motor activity were monitored by means of implanted G2-E-Mitters and the VitalView(®) System (MiniMitter). Each phenotype showed distinctive rhythms of overt activity and body temperature, these two rhythms being very similar for each phenotype. Correcting body temperatures for the effects of activity produced purified temperature rhythms which retained profiles that were distinctive for the phenotype. These results show that the body temperature rhythm is not simply a consequence of the activity pattern but is caused by the endogenous circadian system. The purification method also allowed estimation of thermoregulatory efficiency using the gradients as a measure for the sensitivity of body temperature to activity changes. In WT and DAO hamsters, the gradients were low during activity period and showed two peaks. The first one occurred after “lights-on”, the second one preceded the activity onset. In AR hamsters, the gradients did not reveal circadian changes. The results provide good evidence that the different phenotypes result from differences in the circadian clock. In AR hamsters, the SCN do not produce an obvious circadian signal. With regard to DAO hamsters, it remains to be investigated whether the clockwork itself or the afferent entraining pathways are abnormal in comparison with the WT hamsters.