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The pars tuberalis as a target of the central clock

Ross, Alexander W., Morgan, Peter J.
Cell and tissue research 2002 v.309 no.1 pp. 163-171
biological clocks, gene expression, genes, melatonin, neurosecretory system, photoperiod, physiology, receptors
The pars tuberalis (PT) of the pituitary has emerged from being a gland of obscure and unknown function to a tissue of central importance to our understanding of how photoperiod regulates seasonal responses. The discovery of melatonin receptors on this gland first pointed to its involvement in seasonal physiology. However, the more recent demonstration of the expression of clock genes in the PT, such as Per1, has heightened interest in the gland. Recent work shows how photoperiod, through the hormone melatonin, affects the timing and amplitude of expression of the Per1 gene, as well as other genes such as Icer. The effect of photoperiod and melatonin on the expression of Per1 in the PT is distinct to its effects on the SCN, and this probably reflects distinct functions of the clock genes in the two tissues – acting as part of the biological clock in the SCN, but as an interval timing system within the PT. The changes in amplitude of Per1 gene expression in response to altered length of photoperiod have provided the first clues as to how the durational melatonin signal is decoded within the neuroendocrine system.