Circadian time-keeping during early stages of development

Limor Ziv, Yoav Gothilf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The zebrafish pineal gland is a photoreceptive organ containing an intrinsic central circadian oscillator, which drives daily rhythms of gene expression and the melatonin hormonal signal. Here we investigated the effect of light, given at early developmental stages before pineal gland formation, on the pineal circadian oscillator. Embryos that were exposed to light at 0-6, 10-13, or 10-16 h after fertilization exhibited clock-controlled rhythms of arylalkylamine-N-acetyltransferase (zfaanat2) mRNA in the pineal gland during the third and fourth day of development. This rhythm was absent in embryos that were placed in continuous dark within 2 h after fertilization (before blastula stage). Differences in the phases of these rhythms indicate that they are determined by the time of illumination. Light treatments at these stages also caused a transient increase in period2 mRNA levels, and the development of zfaanat2 mRNA rhythm was abolished by PERIOD2 knock-down. These results indicate that light exposure at early developmental stages, and light-induced expression of period2, are both required for setting the phase of the circadian clock. The 24-h rhythm is then maintained throughout rapid proliferation and, remarkably, differentiation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4146-4151
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number11
StatePublished - 14 Mar 2006


  • Light
  • Period2
  • Pineal
  • Zebrafish


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