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Food and temperature change photoperiodic responses in two vole species: different roles for hypothalamic genes
  • Laura van Rosmalen,
  • Roelof Hut
Laura van Rosmalen
University of Groningen

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Roelof Hut
Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
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Seasonal timing of reproduction in voles is driven by photoperiod. Here we hypothesize that a negative energy balance can modify spring-programmed photoperiodic responses in the hypothalamus, controlling reproductive organ development. We manipulated energy balance by the ‘work-for-food’ protocol, in which voles were exposed to increasing levels of food scarcity at different ambient temperatures under long photoperiod. We reveal that common (Microtus arvalis) and tundra voles (Microtus oeconomus), reduce photoperiodic induced pars tuberalis thyroid-stimulating hormone β-subunit (Tshβ) expression to inhibit gonadal development when food is scarce. Reduction in gonadal size is more pronounced in tundra voles, in which the hypothalamic Kisspeptin (Kiss1) system seems involved in downregulating gonadal development, especially in males. Low temperature additionally leads to decreased hypothalamic RF-amide related peptide (Rfrp3) levels, which may facilitate further suppression of gonadal growth. Shutting off the photoperiodic-axis when food is scarce in spring may be an adaptive response to save energy, leading to delayed reproductive organ development until food resources are sufficient for reproduction, lactation and offspring survival. Defining the mechanisms through which metabolic cues modify photoperiodic responses will be important for a better understanding of how environmental cues impact reproduction.