The master circadian clock in mammals, the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), is under the entraining influence of the external light cycle. At a mechanistic level, intracellular signaling via the p42/44 mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway appears to play a central role in light-evoked clock entrainment; however, the precise downstream mechanisms by which this pathway influences clock timing are not known. Within this context, we have previously reported that light stimulates activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase effector mitogen-stress-activated kinase 1 (MSK1) in the SCN. In this study, we utilised MSK1-/- mice to further investigate the potential role of MSK1 in circadian clock timing and entrainment. Locomotor activity analysis revealed that MSK1 null mice entrained to a 12 h light/dark cycle and exhibited circadian free-running rhythms in constant darkness. Interestingly, the free-running period in MSK1 null mice was significantly longer than in wild-type control animals, and MSK1 null mice exhibited a significantly greater variance in activity onset. Further, MSK1 null mice exhibited a significant reduction in the phase-delaying response to an early night light pulse (100 lux, 15 min), and, using an 8 h phase-advancing 'jet-lag' experimental paradigm, MSK1 knockout animals exhibited a significantly delayed rate of re-entrainment. At the molecular level, early night light-evoked cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB) phosphorylation, histone phosphorylation and Period1 gene expression were markedly attenuated in MSK1-/- animals relative to wild-type mice. Together, these data provide key new insights into the molecular mechanisms by which MSK1 affects the SCN clock.
- Mitogen-activated protein kinase
- Suprachiasmatic nucleus