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Two-oscillator structure of the pacemaker controlling the circadian rhythm of N-acetyltransferase in the rat pineal gland

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  1. 1.

    The organization of the pacemaker driving the circadian rhythm of N-acetyltransferase activity in the rat pineal gland was studied by observing changes of the rhythm caused by 1 min light pulses applied at night. These pulses proved to be effective phase-shifting signals.

  2. 2.

    After 1 min light pulses applied in the first half of the night. N-acetyltransferase activity began to increase anew following a lag period, as if the evening rise in N-acetyltransferase were phase-delayed. After 1 min light pulses applied past midnight, N-acetyltransferase activity declined rapidly and did not increase to the high night value through the rest of night as if the morning decline in N-acetyltransferase were phase-advanced.

  3. 3.

    The phase-response curve (PRC) showing phase-shifts of the evening N-acetyltransferase rise one day after 1 min light pulses had only phase-delays. The PRC showing phase-shifts of the morning N-acetyltransferase decline one day after the pulses had phase-advances as well as phase-delays; however the phase-advances were more pronounced.

  4. 4.

    The data are consistent with a hypothesis of two-oscillator pacemaking system for the N-acetyltransferase rhythm, proposed originally by Pittendrigh and Daan (1976) for the locomotor activity rhythm in nocturnal rodents.

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phase response curve


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Illnerová, H., Vaněček, J. Two-oscillator structure of the pacemaker controlling the circadian rhythm of N-acetyltransferase in the rat pineal gland. J. Comp. Physiol. 145, 539–548 (1982).

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  • Locomotor Activity
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Light Pulse
  • Pineal Gland
  • Activity Rhythm