A switch from diurnal to nocturnal activity in S. ehrenbergi is accompanied by an uncoupling of light input and the circadian clock

Henrik Oster, Aaron Avivi, Alma Joel, Urs Albrecht, Eviatar Nevo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The subterranean mole rat Spalax ehrenbergi superspecies represents an extreme example of adaptive visual and neuronal reorganization [1, 2]. Despite its total visual blindness, its daily activity rhythm is entrainable to light-dark cycles [3], indicating that it can confer light information to the clock. Although most individuals are active during the light phase under laboratory conditions (diurnal animals), some individuals switch their activity period to the night (nocturnal animals) [3, 4]. Similar to other rodents [5], the Spalax circadian clock is driven by a set of clock genes, including the period (sPer) genes [6, 7]. In this work, we show that diurnal mole rats express the Per genes sPer1 and sPer2 with a peak during the light period. Light can synchronize sPer gene expression to an altered light-dark cycle and thereby reset the clock. In contrast, nocturnal Spalax express sPer2 in the dark period and sPer1 in a biphasic manner, with a light-dependent maximum during the day and a second light-independent maximum during the night. Although sPer1 expression remains light inducible, this is not sufficient to reset the molecular clockwork. Hence, the strict coupling of light, Per expression, and the circadian clock is lost. This indicates that Spalax can dissociate the light-driven resetting pathway from the central clock oscillator.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1919-1922
Number of pages4
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number22
StatePublished - 19 Nov 2002

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We'd like to thank Dr. Adrian Streit, Robin Permut, and Gurudutt Pendyala for comments on the manuscript. This work was supported by grants from the Israeli Academy of Sciences and the Ancell-Teicher Research Foundation to A.A. and E.N. and the German Research Foundation DFG (AL549/3-1), the Swiss National Science Foundation, and the State of Fribourg to U.A.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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