Aging Affects the Capacity of Photoperiodic Adaptation Downstream from the Central Molecular Clock

M. Renate Buijink, Anneke H.O. Olde Engberink, Charlotte B. Wit, Assaf Almog, Johanna H. Meijer, Jos H.T. Rohling, Stephan Michel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aging impairs circadian clock function, leading to disrupted sleep-wake patterns and a reduced capability to adapt to changes in environmental light conditions. This makes shift work or the changing of time zones challenging for the elderly and, importantly, is associated with the development of age-related diseases. However, it is unclear what levels of the clock machinery are affected by aging, which is relevant for the development of targeted interventions. We found that naturally aged mice of >24 months had a reduced rhythm amplitude in behavior compared with young controls (3-6 months). Moreover, the old animals had a strongly reduced ability to adapt to short photoperiods. Recording PER2::LUC protein expression in the suprachiasmatic nucleus revealed no impairment of the rhythms in PER2 protein under the 3 different photoperiods tested (LD: 8:16, 12:12, and 16:8). Thus, we observed a discrepancy between the behavioral phenotype and the molecular clock, and we conclude that the aging-related deficits emerge downstream of the core molecular clock. Since it is known that aging affects several intracellular and membrane components of the central clock cells, it is likely that an impairment of the interaction between the molecular clock and these components is contributing to the deficits in photoperiod adaptation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-179
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Biological Rhythms
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • PERIOD 2
  • behavior
  • circadian rhythm
  • clock gene
  • neuronal plasticity
  • seasonal adaptation
  • suprachiasmatic nucleus


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