Cryptochromes are photoactive pigments in the eye that have been proposed to function as circadian photopigments. Mice lacking the cryptochrome 2 blue-light photoreceptor gene (mCry2) were tested for circadian clock-related functions. The mutant mice had a lower sensitivity to acute light induction of mPer1 in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) but exhibited normal circadian oscillations of mPer1 and mCry1 messenger RNA in the SCN. Behaviorally, the mutants had an intrinsic circadian period about 1 hour longer than normal and exhibited high-amplitude phase shifts in response to light pulses administered at circadian time 17. These data are consistent with the hypothesis that CRY2 protein modulates circadian responses in mice and suggest that cryptochromes have a role in circadian photoreception in mammals.
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