The Roslin Institute
Roslin Logo

Menu

Seasonal body clock found in animals

BBSRC funded researchers at The Roslin Institute and the University of Manchester have discovered the cells driving the annual body clock in animals which adapts their body to the changing seasons.

September 2015

BBSRC funded researchers at The Roslin Institute and the University of Manchester have discovered the cells driving the annual body clock in animals which adapts their body to the changing seasons. Cells in a structure called the 'pars tuberalis'- which is situated in the pituitary gland - are specialized cells that respond according to how much daylight there is, providing an internal genetic calendar for the animal.

The activity of these "calendar cells" changes dramatically over the year, with different proteins produced in winter or summer months. The switching between proteins in calendar cells is what drives the seasonal cycle in sheep and other mammals.

The findings are published in the journal Current Biology:

Binary Switching of Calendar Cells in the Pituitary Defines the Phase of the Circannual Cycle in Mammals

It looks like there's a short period of the year in the middle of winter and the middle of summer when they are all in one state or the other.

We've known for some time that melatonin is critical for these long-term rhythms, but how it works and where it works had not been clear until now.

Professor LoudonUniversity of Manchester

 

The seasonal clock found in sheep is likely to be the same in all vertebrates, or at least contains the same parts. The next step is to understand how our cells record the passage of time.

Profesor Dave Burt