• arousal;
  • hamster;
  • mitogen-activated protein kinase;
  • non-photic


The master circadian clock, located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), is synchronized to the external world primarily through exposure to light. A second class of stimuli based on arousal or activity can also reset the hamster circadian clock in a manner distinct from light. The mechanism underlying these non-photic phase shifts is unknown, although suppression of canonical clock genes and immediate early genes has been implicated. Recently, suppression of one of the mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPK), namely extracellular signal-responsive kinases I/II (ERK), has been implicated in phase shifts to dark pulses, a stimulus with both photic and non-photic components. We investigated the involvement of the ERK/MAPK pathway in phase shifts in response to 3 h of sleep deprivation initiated at mid-day. About three-quarters of animals subjected to this procedure demonstrated large phase advances of about 3 h. Those that shifted exhibited a significant decrease in phosphorylated ERK (p-ERK) in the SCN. Those animals that were perfused during the sleep deprivation also exhibited immunoreactivity for p-ERK in a distinct portion of the ventrolateral SCN. Finally, injections of U0126 to the SCN to prevent phosphorylation of ERK significantly decreased levels of p-ERK but did not produce phase shifts. These data demonstrate that a purely non-photic manipulation is able to alter the activity of the MAPK pathway in the SCN, with downregulation in the SCN shell and activation in a portion of the SCN core.