To determine if the extent of portal-systemic shunting (PSS) influences the disruption of circadian function in chronic liver disease, locomotor activity was examined in two rat models with varying degrees of PSS, i.e., portal vein ligation (PVL) and end-to-side portacaval anastomosis (PCA). Animals were housed in individual activity cages under conditions of 12 hour light/12 hour darkness (weeks 0-3), then under conditions of constant dim light (weeks 4-7). Cages were equipped with running wheels connected to a continuous recorder, and daily tracings of running activity were recorded for 7 weeks. Computer analysis of wheel revolutions per hour with a χ2 periodogram was used to calculate Qp, a measure of the amplitude of a circadian rhythm. The degree of PSS was measured by means of radioactive microspheres injected into the ileocolic vein and spleen. PVL rats were found to have PSS from the splenic and mesenteric territories of 88% and 27%, respectively; circadian periodicity was maintained in all PVL rats. PCA rats had complete shunting (>99%) and showed a range of disrupted circadian rhythms from blunting of the amplitude to complete absence of the locomotor activity rhythm. This spectrum of disorganization occurred in spite of similar degrees of liver atrophy and weight gain. Whereas PCA in rats markedly disturbs the circadian rhythm of locomotor activity, animals with considerably less PSS from PVL exhibit normal behavior. The extent of PSS could be a variable affecting the expression of circadian rhythms in liver disease.
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