The photoperiod, circadian regulation and chronodisruption
The current scientific literature is replete with investigations providing information on the molecular mechanisms governing the regulation of circadian rhythms by neurons in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), the master circadian generator. Virtually every function in an organism changes in a highly regular manner during every 24-hour period. These rhythms are believed to be a consequence of the SCN, via neural and humoral means, regulating the intrinsic clocks that perhaps all cells in organisms possess. These rhythms optimize the functions of cells and thereby prevent or lower the incidence of pathologies. Since these cyclic events are essential for improved cellular physiology, it is imperative that the SCN provide the peripheral cellular oscillators with the appropriate time cues. Inasmuch as the 24-hour light:dark cycle is a primary input to the central circadian clock, it is obvious that disturbances in the photoperiodic environment, e.g., light exposure at night, would cause disruption in the function of the SCN which would then pass this inappropriate information to cells in the periphery. One circadian rhythm that transfers time of day information to the organism is the melatonin cycle which is always at low levels in the blood during the day and at high levels during darkness. With light exposure at night the amount of melatonin produced is compromised and this important rhythm is disturbed. Another important source of melatonin is the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) that also influences the circulating melatonin is the generation of this hormone by the entero-endocrine (EE) cells in the gut following ingestion of tryptophan-containing meal. The consequences of the altered melatonin cycle with the chronodisruption as well as the alterations of GIT melatonin that have been linked to a variety of pathologies, including those of the gastrointestinal tract.
Reiter RJ, Rosales-Corral S, Coto-Montes A, Boga JA, Tan DX, Davis JM, Konturek PC, Konturek SJ, Brzozowski T. The photoperiod, circadian regulation and chronodisruption: the requisite interplay between the suprachiasmatic nuclei and the pineal and gut melatonin. J Physiol Pharmacol. 2011 June Department of Cellular and Structural Biology, UT Health Science Center San Antonio, Texas, USA.