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Circadian rhythms are generated by interlocked transcriptional-translational feedback loops of circadian clock genes and their protein products. Mice homozygous for a functional deletion in the Period-2 gene (Per2m/m mice) exhibit short free-running circadian periods and eventually lose behavioral circadian rhythmicity in constant darkness (DD). We investigated Per2m/m mice in DD for several months and identified a categorical sex difference in the dependence on Per2 for maintenance of circadian rhythms. Nearly all female Per2m/m mice became circadian arrhythmic in DD, whereas free-running rhythms persisted in 37% of males. Remarkably, with extended testing, Per2m/m mice did not remain arrhythmic in DD, but after varying intervals spontaneously recovered robust, free-running circadian rhythms, with periods shorter than those expressed prior to arrhythmia. Spontaneous recovery was strikingly sex-biased, occurring in 95% of females and 33% of males. Castration in adulthood resulted in male Per2m/m mice exhibiting female-like levels of arrhythmia in DD, but did not affect spontaneous recovery. The circadian pacemaker of many gonad-intact males, but not females, can persist in DD for long intervals without a functional PER2 protein; their circadian clocks may be in an unstable equilibrium, incapable of sustaining persistent coherent circadian organization, resulting in transient cycles of circadian organization and arrhythmia.


Jonathan P Riggle, Kenneth G Onishi, Jharnae A Love, Dana E Beach, Irving Zucker, Brian J Prendergast. Spontaneous Recovery of Circadian Organization in Mice Lacking a Core Component of the Molecular Clockwork. Journal of biological rhythms. 2022 Feb;37(1):94-109

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PMID: 34931572

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