Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Discovery: Experiments Confirm Novel Eye Pigment Controls Circadian Rhythm

Date:
November 20, 1998
Source:
University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill
Summary:
New research by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill scientists has proven that a light-sensitive pigment they discovered in the eye, the skin and part of the brain controls the body's internal clock.

CHAPEL HILL - New research by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill scientists has proven that a light-sensitive pigment they discovered in the eye, the skin and part of the brain controls the body's internal clock.

Related Articles


Their initial discovery, published in May, was the first of its kind in more than a century. The work could lead to better treatment for depression and fewer accidents during night work shifts, researchers say.

"Because some investigators questioned how conclusive our earlier data was, we decided to create a mouse lacking the pigment to see what effect it had on the mouse," said Dr. Aziz Sancar, Kenan professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the UNC-CH School of Medicine. "Using what some people have called 'knock-out mouse technology,' we created animals that lacked the gene responsible for making the pigment."

The scientists found the pigment, called cryptochrome (CRY), drives mammals' circadian rhythm, the 24-hour biological timer that regulates numerous bodily functions, Sancar said. Those processes -- synchronized to light and dark by light at dawn -- range from body temperature and blood pressure regulation to intellectual performance, sleep and wakefulness.

A report on the findings appears in the Nov. 20 issue of Science. Besides Sancar, authors are Randy J. Thresher, Yasuhide Miyamoto, Aleksey Kazantsev, David S. Hsu, Claude Petit, Christopher P. Selby, Lala Dawut and Oliver Smithies, all of UNC-CH, and Martha Hotz Vitatarna and Joseph S. Takahashi of Northwestern University.

Experiments at UNC-CH showed that production of a protein known as "Period," which is controlled by light and helps regulate mammals' internal clock, was reduced by more than 50 percent in the mutant mice, Sancar said.

Complementary experiments at Northwestern that involved having the Carolina knockout mice running on treadmills and resting during simulated nights and days showed mutants to have abnormal response to light and abnormally long daily cycles lasting about an hour longer - 25 hours -- than they should.

"We are extremely excited about this fundamental discovery because it appears to be so central to mental and physiologic functioning," Sancar said. "Previously, it was assumed that the same pigment in the eye was responsible for vision and circadian synchronization, and now we know that's not true."

Discovered in 1877, pigments known as opsins, which are linked to vitamin A and located in the retina, enable mammals to see by absorbing light and transferring visual signals through the optic nerve to the brain. The newly discovered cryptochromes, which come in two forms called CRY 1 and CRY 2, are linked to vitamin B-2 and located in a different part of the retina. Cryptochromes enable animals and humans to synchronize their circadian clocks by absorbing blue light and transferring the light signal through the optic nerve to a different part of the brain from the center for vision.

Severing the optic nerve abolishes both vision and circadian photo-response, the scientist said. However, because pigments for vision and circadian clocks occur in different parts of the retina, some blind people who have lost the part of the retina containing opsins still retain the cryptochrome region and maintain normal circadian rhythm.

"Understanding how circadian rhythm works has many practical applications," said Sancar, a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. "First, individuals with a disease called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, suffer serious depression during the winter months with short daylight. It may be that SAD patients have a defective gene that doesn't produce the pigment properly or simply suffer from a vitamin B-2 deficiency. Maybe we can treat some patients with vitamin B-2."

Second, industrial accidents such as those at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl often occur at night. American industry has collected data showing most accidents happen during the midnight shift.

"That's because people's circadian clocks have told them that it is time to slow down, and mistakes are more likely," Sancar said.

Jet lag follows the discrepancy between local time and a passenger's circadian time, which was in tune with the day and night cycle of the departure point. Also, breast cancer rates have climbed this century with some blaming long exposure to electric lights for disrupting normal hormone patterns.

Cancer experts want to know more about such rhythms because both beneficial and side effects of anti-cancer drugs can depend on what time of day they are administered, he said. He and colleagues found evidence of the new pigment widespread in body tissues including skin and brain.

Daily light-dark cycles regulate biologic functions in creatures as simple as bacteria and as complex as humans, Sancar said. Human Genome Project staff found the human CRY1 but not its function. He and his students discovered the CRY2 gene with Human Genome Sciences Inc. researchers. They have applied for a patent on the work, which was supported by NIH.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill. "Discovery: Experiments Confirm Novel Eye Pigment Controls Circadian Rhythm." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 November 1998. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/11/981120075911.htm>.
University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill. (1998, November 20). Discovery: Experiments Confirm Novel Eye Pigment Controls Circadian Rhythm. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/11/981120075911.htm
University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill. "Discovery: Experiments Confirm Novel Eye Pigment Controls Circadian Rhythm." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/11/981120075911.htm (accessed December 21, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Best Tips to Curb Holiday Carbs

The Best Tips to Curb Holiday Carbs

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) It's hard to resist those delicious but fattening carbs we all crave during the winter months, but there are some ways to stay satisfied without consuming the extra calories. Vanessa Freeman (@VanessaFreeTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) More than 100 motorcyclists hit the road to spread awareness messages about Ebola. Nearly 7,000 people have now died from the virus, almost all of them in west Africa, according to the World Health Organization. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Protein-Filled Foods to Energize You for the New Year

The Best Protein-Filled Foods to Energize You for the New Year

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) The new year is coming and nothing will energize you more for 2015 than protein-filled foods. Fitness and nutrition expert John Basedow (@JohnBasedow) gives his favorite high protein foods that will help you build muscle, lose fat and have endless energy. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins