Light, immediate-early genes, and circadian rhythms

Jon M. Kornhauser, Kelly E. Mayo, Joseph S. Takahashi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

135 Scopus citations


Many diverse behaviors exhibit clear circadian rhythms in their expression. In mammals, these rhythms originate from a neural circadian clock located in the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN). Recently, signaling pathways activated by light in the SCN have begun to be identified. A specific set of immediate-early genes is induced by light in the SCN, and their expression is correlated with the resetting of circadian behavioral rhythms. These light- regulated immediate-early genes offer multiple inroads into the biology of the SCN: first, they are functional markers for the activation of SCN neurons by light; second, they can direct us to the upstream light-activated (and clock-regulated) signal transduction pathways which mediate their induction; and finally, they encode transcription factor proteins which may play a role in the molecular mechanism of resetting the circadian clock.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)221-240
Number of pages20
JournalBehavior Genetics
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 1996


  • CREB
  • Fos
  • Suprachiasmatic nucleus
  • circadian rhythms
  • cyclic AMP-response element
  • immediate-early gene

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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