Masking responses to light in period mutant mice

Julie S. Pendergast, Shin Yamazaki

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Masking is an acute effect of an external signal on an overt rhythm and is distinct from the process of entrainment. In the current study, we investigated the phase dependence and molecular mechanisms regulating masking effects of light pulses on spontaneous locomotor activity in mice. The circadian genes, Period1 (Per1) and Per2, are necessary components of the timekeeping machinery and entrainment by light appears to involve the induction of the expression of Per1 and Per2 mRNAs in the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN). We assessed the roles of the Per genes in regulating masking by assessing the effects of light pulses on nocturnal locomotor activity in C57BL/6J Per mutant mice. We found that Per1 -/- and Per2 -/- mice had robust negative masking responses to light. In addition, the locomotor activity of Per1 -/-/Per2 -/- mice appeared to be rhythmic in the light-dark (LD) cycle, and the phase of activity onset was advanced (but varied among individual mice) relative to lights off. This rhythm persisted for 1 to 2 days in constant darkness in some Per1 -/-/Per2 -/- mice. Furthermore, Per1 -/-/Per2 -/- mice exhibited robust negative masking responses to light. Negative masking was phase dependent in wild-type mice such that maximal suppression was induced by light pulses at zeitgeber time 14 (ZT14) and gradually weaker suppression occurred during light pulses at ZT16 and ZT18. By measuring the phase shifts induced by the masking protocol (light pulses were administered to mice maintained in the LD cycle), we found that the phase responsiveness of Per mutant mice was altered compared to wild-types. Together, our data suggest that negative masking responses to light are robust in Per mutant mice and that the Per1 -/-/Per2 -/- SCN may be a light-driven, weak/damping oscillator.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)657-663
Number of pages7
JournalChronobiology International
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by National Institutes of Health grants (NS051278 to S.Y. and F32NS061437 to J.S.P.). We thank David Weaver for mPer1ldc−/− and mPer2ldc−/− mice. We also thank Matthew Sundermann for technical assistance.


  • Aschoff's Type VI protocol
  • C57BL/6J
  • Circadian
  • Negative masking
  • Period double knockout
  • Suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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