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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Melatonin affects nuclear orphan receptors mRNA in the rat suprachiasmatic nuclei.

The pineal hormone melatonin nocturnal synthesis feeds back on the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN), the central circadian clock. Indeed, daily melatonin injections in free-running rats resynchronize their locomotor activity to 24 h. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying this chronobiotic effect of the hormone are poorly understood. The endogenous circadian machinery involves positive and negative transcriptional feedback loops implicating different genes (particularly period (Per) 1-3, Clock, Bmal1, cryptochrome (Cry) 1-2). While CLOCK:BMAL1 heterodimer activates the rhythmic transcription of per and cry genes, the PER and CRY proteins inhibit the CLOCK:BMAL1 complex. In previous studies, we observed that the immediate resetting effect of a melatonin injection at the end of the subjective day on the SCN circadian activity did not directly involve the above-mentioned clock genes. Recently, nuclear orphan receptors (NORs) have been presented as functional links between the regulatory loops of the molecular clock. These NORs bind to a retinoic acid receptor-related orphan receptor response element (RORE) domain and activate (RORalpha) or repress (REV-ERBalpha) bmal1 expression. In this study, we investigated whether melatonin exerts its chronobiotic effects through transcriptional regulation of these transcription factors. We monitored roralpha, rorbeta and rev-erbalpha messenger RNA (mRNA) expression levels by quantitative in situ hybridization, up to 36 h following a melatonin injection at circadian time (CT) 11. 5. Results clearly showed that, while roralpha was not affected by melatonin, the hormone partially prevented the decrease of the rorbeta mRNA expression observed in control animals during the first hours following the injection. The major result is that the rev-erbalpha mRNA expression rhythm was 1.3+/-0.8-h phase-advanced in melatonin-treated animals during the first subjective night following the melatonin administration. Moreover, the bmal1 mRNA expression was 1.9+/-0.9-h phase-shifted in the second subjective night following the melatonin injection. These results clearly suggest that the NOR genes could be the link between the chronobiotic action of melatonin and the core of the molecular circadian clock.[1]


  1. Melatonin affects nuclear orphan receptors mRNA in the rat suprachiasmatic nuclei. Agez, L., Laurent, V., P??vet, P., Masson-P??vet, M., Gauer, F. Neuroscience (2007) [Pubmed]
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