In zebrafish, the pineal gland is a photoreceptive organ that contains an intrinsic circadian oscillator and exhibits rhythmic arylalkylamine-N-acetyltransferase (zfaanat2) mRNA expression. In the present study, we investigated the role of light and of a clock gene, zperiod2 (zper2), in the development of this rhythm. Analysis of zfaanat2 mRNA expression in the pineal gland of 3-day-old zebrafish embryos after exposure to different photoperiodic regimes indicated that light is required for proper development of the circadian clock-controlled rhythmic expression of zfaanat2, and that a 1-h light pulse is sufficient to initiate this rhythm. Analysis of zper2 mRNA expression in zebrafish embryos exposed to different photoperiodic regimes indicated that zper2 expression is transiently up-regulated by light but is not regulated by the circadian oscillator. To establish the association between light-induced zper2 expression and light-induced clock-controlled zfaanat2 rhythm, zPer2 knock-down experiments were performed. The zfaanat2 mRNA rhythm, induced by a 1-h light pulse, was abolished in zPer2 knock-down embryos. These experiments indicated that light-induced zper2 expression is crucial for establishment of the clock-controlled zfaanat2 rhythm in the zebrafish pineal gland.
- In situ hybridization