Cryptochrome (Cry) 1 and 2 are essential for circadian rhythm generation, not only in the suprachiasmatic nucleus, the site of the mammalian master circadian clock, but also in peripheral organs throughout the body. CRY is also known as a repressor of arylalkylamine-N-acetyltransferase (Aanat) transcription, therefore, Cry-deficiency is expected to induce constantly high pineal melatonin content. Nevertheless, we previously found that the content was consistently low in melatonin-proficient Cry1 and Cry2 double-deficient mice (Cry1-/-/Cry2-/-) on C3H background. This study aims to clarify the mechanism underlying this discrepancy.
In the Cry1-/-/Cry2-/- pineal, expression levels of Aanat and clock gene Per1 were consistently high with no circadian fluctuation on the first day in constant darkness, demonstrating that CRY acts in vivo as a repressor of the pineal circadian clock and AANAT. In contrast, the enzyme activity and protein levels of AANAT remained low throughout the day, supporting our previous observation of continuously low melatonin. Thus, effects of Cry-deficiency on the responses of β-adrenergic receptors were examined in cultured pineal glands. Isoproterenol, a β-adrenergic stimulant, significantly increased melatonin content, although the increase was smaller in Cry1-/-/Cry2-/- than in wild-type mice, during both the day and night. Whereas, the increase in cAMP in response to forskolin was similar in both genotypes, indicating that CRY deficiency does not affect the pathway downstream of the β-adrenergic receptor. These results suggest that a lack of circadian adrenergic input due to CRY deficiency decreases β-receptor activity and cAMP levels, resulting in consistently low AANAT levels despite abundant Aanat mRNA.