Cristina Saenz de Miera, Matthew Beymer, Kevin Routledge, Elzbieta Krol, David G. Hazlerigg, and Valerie Simonneaux
Mus musculus molossinus (MSM) is a wild-derived mouse strain which maintains the ability to synthesize melatonin in patterns reflecting the ambient photoperiod. The objective of this study was to characterize the effects of photoperiodic variation on metabolic and reproductive traits, and the related changes in pituitary-hypothalamic gene expression in MSM mice. MSM mice were kept in long (LP) or short photoperiod (SP) for 6 weeks. Our results demonstrate that MSM mice kept in LP, as compared to mice kept in SP, display higher expression of genes encoding thyrotropin (TSH) in the pars tuberalis, thyroid hormone deiodinase 2 (dio2) in the tanycytes, RFamide-related peptide (RFRP3) in the hypothalamus and lower expression of dio3 in the tanycytes, along with larger body and reproductive organ mass. Additionally, to assess the effects of the gestational photoperiodic environment on the expression of these genes, we kept MSM mice in LP or SP from gestation and studied offspring. We show that the gestational photoperiod affects the TSH/dio pathway in newborn MSM mice in a similar way to adults. This result indicates a transgenerational effect of photoperiod from the mother to the fetus in utero. Overall, these results indicate that photoperiod can influence neuroendocrine regulation in a melatonin-proficient mouse strain, in a manner similar that documented in other seasonal rodent species. MSM mice may therefore become a useful model for research into the molecular basis of photoperiodic regulation of seasonal biology.