Circadian locomotor analysis of male mice lacking the gene for neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS-/-)

Lance J. Kriegsfeld, Gregory E. Demas, Samuel E. Lee, Ted M. Dawson, Valina L. Dawson, Randy J. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Nitric oxide (NO) is an endogenous gas that functions as a neurotransmitter. Because NO is very labile with a half-life of less than 5 sec, most functional studies of NO have manipulated its synthetic enzyme, NO synthase (NOS). Three isoforms of NOS have been identified: (1) in the endothelial lining of blood vessels (eNOS), (2) an inducible form found in macrophages (iNOS), and (3) in neurons (nNOS). Most pharmacological studies to date have blocked all three isoforms of NOS. Previous studies using such agents have revealed that NO might be necessary for photic entrainment of circadian rhythms; general NOS inhibitors attenuate phase shifts of free-running behavior, light-induced c-fos expression in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), and phase shifts of neural firing activity in SCN maintained in vitro. To assess the specific role of nNOS in mediating entrainment of circadian rhythms, mice with targeted deletion of the gene encoding the neuronal isoform of NOS (nNOS-/-) were used. Wild-type (WT) and nNOS-/- mice initially were entrained to a 14:10 light:dark (LD) cycle. After 3 weeks, the LD cycle was either phase advanced or phase delayed. After an additional 3 weeks, animals were held in either constant dim light or constant dark. WT and nNOS-/- animals did not differ in their ability to entrain to the LD cycle, phase shift locomotor activity, or free run in constant conditions. Animals held in constant dark were killed after light exposure during either the subjective day or subjective night to assess c-fos induction in the SCN. Light exposure during the subjective night increased c-fos expression in the SCN of both WT and nNOS-/- mice relative to animals killed after light exposure during the subjective day. Taken together, these findings suggest that NO from neurons might not be necessary for photic entrainment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20-27
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biological Rhythms
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1999


  • Circadian
  • Glutamate
  • Knockout
  • NMDA
  • Retinohypothalamic tract
  • Suprachiasmatic nucleus
  • Temporal cycles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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