Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientists clock onto how sunlight puts a spring in our step

Date:
April 30, 2010
Source:
University of Edinburgh
Summary:
Scientists have discovered two "body clock" genes that reveal how seasonal changes in hormones are controlled and could ultimately help find treatments for seasonal affective disorder. Researchers also found that one of these genes has a similar role in both birds and mammals, showing a common link that has been conserved for more than 300 million years.

Scientists have discovered two "body clock" genes that reveal how seasonal changes in hormones are controlled and could ultimately help find treatments for seasonal affective disorder.

Researchers at the Universities of Edinburgh and Manchester also found that one of these genes (EYA3) has a similar role in both birds and mammals. showing a common link that has been conserved for more than 300 million years.

Scientists studied thousands of genes in Soay sheep. This breed, which dates back to the Bronze Age, is considered to be one of the most primitive with seasonal body clocks unaffected by cross breeding throughout the centuries.

For a long time, scientists had speculated that a key molecule -- termed tuberalin -- was produced in the pituitary gland at the base of the brain and sent signals to release hormones involved in driving seasonal changes.

However, until now scientists have had no idea about the nature of this molecule, how it works or how it is controlled.

The team focussed on a part of the brain that responds to melatonin -- a hormone known to be involved in seasonal timing in mammals.

The study revealed a candidate molecule for the elusive tuberalin, which communicates within the pituitary gland to signal the release of another hormone -- prolactin -- when days start getting longer. This helps animals adapt to seasonal changes in the environment.

The researchers, whose findings are published in the journal Current Biology, subsequently identified two genes -- TAC1 and EYA3 -- that were both activated early when natural hormone levels rise due to longer days.

Professor Dave Burt, of The Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh, said: "For more than a decade scientists have known about the presence of this mysterious molecule tuberalin, but until now nobody has known quite how it worked. Identifying these genes not only sheds light on how our internal annual body clocks function but also shows a key link between birds and mammals that has been conserved over 300 million years."

The study suggests that the first gene TAC1 could only work when the second gene EYA3 -- which is also found in birds -- was present. The second gene may act to regulate TAC 1 so that it could be switched on in response to increasing day length.

Professor Andrew Loudon, of the University of Manchester's Faculty of Life Sciences, said: "A lot of our behaviour is controlled by seasons. This research sheds new light on how animals adapt to seasonal change, which impacts on factors including hibernation, fat deposition and reproduction as well as the ability to fight off diseases."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Edinburgh. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Sandrine M. Dupré, Katarzyna Miedzinska, Chloe V. Duval, Le Yu, Robert L. Goodman, Gerald A. Lincoln, Julian R.E. Davis, Alan S. McNeilly, David D. Burt, Andrew S.I. Loudon. Identification of Eya3 and TAC1 as Long-Day Signals in the Sheep Pituitary. Current Biology, 29 April 2010 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2010.02.066

Cite This Page:

University of Edinburgh. "Scientists clock onto how sunlight puts a spring in our step." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 April 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100429132747.htm>.
University of Edinburgh. (2010, April 30). Scientists clock onto how sunlight puts a spring in our step. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100429132747.htm
University of Edinburgh. "Scientists clock onto how sunlight puts a spring in our step." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100429132747.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Dieting At A Young Age Might Lead To Harmful Health Habits

Dieting At A Young Age Might Lead To Harmful Health Habits

Newsy (July 30, 2014) — Researchers say women who diet at a young age are at greater risk of developing harmful health habits, including eating disorders and alcohol abuse. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

Newsy (July 29, 2014) — If you've been looking for love online, there's a chance somebody has been looking at how you're looking. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

Newsy (July 29, 2014) — Researchers have found certain facial features can make us seem more attractive or trustworthy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Newsy (July 27, 2014) — A new study shows sleep deprivation can make it harder for people to remember specific details of an event. Video provided by Newsy
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:
from the past week

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