Circadian clocks regulate homeostasis and mediate responses to stressors. Lactation is one of the most energetically demanding periods of an adult female's life. Peripartum changes occur in almost every organ so the dam can support neonatal growth through milk production while homeostasis is maintained. How circadian clocks are involved in adaptation to lactation is currently unknown. The abundance and temporal pattern of core clock genes' expression were measured in suprachiasmatic nucleus, liver, and mammary from late pregnant and early lactation mice. Tissue-specific changes in molecular clocks occurred between physiological states. Amplitude and robustness of rhythms increased in suprachiasmatic nucleus and liver. Mammary rhythms of core molecular clock genes were suppressed. Attenuated rhythms appeared to be a physiological adaptation of mammary to lactation, because manipulation of timing of suckling resulting in significant differences in plasma prolactin and corticosterone had no effect on amplitude. Analysis of core clock proteins revealed that the stoichiometric relationship between positive (CLOCK) and negative (PER2) components remained 1:1 in liver but was increased to 4:1 in mammary during physiological transition. Induction of differentiation of mammary epithelial cell line HC11 with dexamethasone, insulin, and prolactin resulted in similar stoichiometric changes among positive and negative clock regulators, and prolactin induced phase shifts in HC11 Arntl expression rhythm. Data support that distinct mechanisms drive periparturient changes in mammary clock. Stoichiometric change in clock regulators occurs with gland differentiation. Suppression of mammary clock gene expression rhythms represents a physiological adaptation to suckling cues. Adaptations in mammary clock are likely needed in part to support suckling demands of neonates.
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Vol. 90 • No. 6