Seasonal variations of locomotor activity rhythms in melatonin-proficient and -deficient mice under seminatural outdoor conditions

  • Locomotor activity patterns of laboratory mice are widely used to analyze circadian mechanisms, but most investigations have been performed under standardized laboratory conditions. Outdoors, animals are exposed to daily changes in photoperiod and other abiotic cues that might influence their circadian system. To investigate how the locomotor activity patterns under outdoor conditions compare to controlled laboratory conditions, we placed 2 laboratory mouse strains (melatonin-deficient C57Bl and melatonin-proficient C3H) in the garden of the Dr. Senckenbergische Anatomie in Frankfurt am Main. The mice were kept singly in cages equipped with an infrared locomotion detector, a hiding box, nesting material, and with food and water ad libitum. The locomotor activity of each mouse was recorded for 1 year, together with data on ambient temperature, light, and humidity. Chronotype, chronotype stability, total daily activity, duration of the activity period, and daily diurnality indices were determined from the actograms. C3H mice showed clear seasonal differences in the chronotype, its stability, the total daily activity, and the duration of the activity period. These pronounced seasonal differences were not observed in the C57Bl. In both strains, the onset of the main activity period was mainly determinedby the evening dusk, whereas the offset was influenced by the ambient temperature. The actograms did not reveal infra-, ultradian, or lunar rhythms or a weekday/weekend pattern. Under outdoor conditions, the 2 strains retained their nocturnal locomotor identity as observed in the laboratory. Our results indicate that the chronotype displays a seasonal plasticity that may depend on the melatoninergic system. Photoperiod and ambient temperature are the most potent abiotic entraining cues. The timing of the evening dusk mainly affects the onset of the activity period; the ambient temperature during this period influences the latter’s duration. Humidity, overall light intensities, and human activities do not affect the locomotor behavior.

Download full text files

Export metadata

Additional Services

Share in Twitter Search Google Scholar
Author:Joshua MetzgerGND
Place of publication:Frankfurt am Main
Referee:Helmut Wicht, Robert Alexander SaderORCiDGND
Advisor:Martina Pfeffer, Helmut Wicht
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Date of Publication (online):2021/11/26
Year of first Publication:2020
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Granting Institution:Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität
Date of final exam:2021/11/01
Release Date:2021/12/10
Page Number:38
Dewey Decimal Classification:6 Technik, Medizin, angewandte Wissenschaften / 61 Medizin und Gesundheit / 610 Medizin und Gesundheit
Licence (German):License LogoDeutsches Urheberrecht