A cholinergic antagonist, mecamylamine, blocks light-induced Fos immunoreactivity in specific regions of the hamster suprachiasmatic nucleus

Yan Zhang, Phyllis C. Zee, John D. Kirby, Joseph S. Takahashi, Fred W. Turek

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Recent studies have shown that light-induced phase shifts of the circadian rhythm of locomotor activity are associated with c-fos expression in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of rodents. In order to explore further the importance of c-fos expression for the phase-shifting effects of light, we examined the effects of mecamylamine on light-induced Fos-like immunoreactivity (Fos-lir) in the SCN. Mecamylamine was chosen because it is a cholinergic antagonist that blocks the phase-shifting effects of light on the circadian activity rhythm in the golden hamster. Golden hamsters were entrained for at least 14 days to a 14 h light: 10 h dark photoperiod. Animals were then placed in constant darkness (DD) and during exposure to DD were subjected to one or more of the following treatments: (1) vehicle alone; (2) mecamylamine alone (450 μg, i.c.v.) at circadian time (CT) 19; (3) vehicle plus a light pulse at CT 19; (4) mecamylamine 10 min prior to the light pulse at CT 19. Mecamylamine blocked the phase-shifting effects of light on the circadian rhythm of locomotor activity when compared to vehicle-treated animals (P < 0.001). A light pulse at CT 19 induced Fos-lir in the SCN within 1 h, whereas treatment with vehicle or mecamylamine had no noticeable effect on Fos-lir in the SCN. Mecamylamine pretreatment dramatically reduced light-induced Fos-lir in the SCN by 75%. The most striking observation was the clear inhibition of Fos-lir by mecamylamine in the dorsomedial region of the SCN while there was little inhibition of Fos-lir in the most ventral portions of the SCN. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that light-induced phase advances in the activity rhythm are mediated by Fos expression in the SCN, and indicate that Fos expression in the dorsomedial region of the SCN may play a role in light-induced phase shifts in the circadian clock.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-112
Number of pages6
JournalBrain Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 25 1993



  • Acetylcholine
  • Circadian rhythm
  • Fos immunoreactivity
  • Hamster
  • Mecamylamine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neuroscience(all)

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