In the female mouse, ovulation and estrous cyclicity are under both hormonal and circadian control. We have shown that mice with a mutation in the core circadian gene Clock have abnormal estrous cycles and do not have a luteinizing hormone (LH) surge on the afternoon of proestrus due to a defect at the hypothalamic level. In the present study, we tested the hypotheses that vasopressin (AVP) can act as a circadian signal to regulate the proestrous release of LH, and that this signal is deficient in the Clock mutant. We found that Avp expression in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) and AVP 1a receptor (Avpr1a) expression in the hypothalamus is reduced in Clock mutant mice compared to wild-type mice. Intracerebroventricular (i.c.v.) injection of AVP on the afternoon of proestrus is sufficient to induce LH secretion, which reaches surge levels in 50% of Clock mutant mice. The effect of AVP on the Clock mutant LH surge is mediated by AVPR1A, as co-infusion of AVP and an AVPR1A-specific antagonist prevents AVP induction of LH release, although infusion of an AVPR1A antagonist into wild-type mice failed to prevent a proestrous LH surge. These results suggest that reduced hypothalamic AVP signaling plays a role in the absence of the proestrous LH surge in Clock mutant mice. The results also support the hypothesis that AVP produced by the SCN may be a circadian signal that regulates LH release.
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