The avian pineal gland contains a circadian pacemaker that oscillates in vitro. Using a flow-through culture system it is possible to measure melatonin production from very small subsections of an individual gland. We have used this technique to attempt to localize the oscillators in the pineal. Progressive tissue reduction did not affect the rhythmicity of cultured pineals. Multiple pieces (up to eight) from a single pineal all were capable of circadian oscillation - establishing directly that a pineal gland contains at least eight oscillators. All pineal pieces were responsive to light, and single light pulses shifted the phase of the melatonin rhythm. Because pieces equivalent to less than one per cent of the whole gland were rhythmic and because the capacity for oscillation was distributed throughout the gland, an individual pineal appears to be composed of a population of circadian oscillators.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Animal Science and Zoology
- Behavioral Neuroscience