The mammalian circadian system is a hierarchical network of oscillators organized to optimally coordinate behavior and physiology with daily environmental cycles. The suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the hypothalamus is at the top of this hierarchy, synchronizing to the environmental light-dark cycle, and coordinates the phases of peripheral clocks. The Period genes are critical components of the molecular timekeeping mechanism of these clocks. Circadian clocks are disabled in Period1/2/3 triple mutant mice, resulting in arrhythmic behavior in constant conditions. We uncovered rhythmic behavior in this mutant by simply exposing the mice to timed access to a palatable meal or running wheel. The emergent circadian behavior rhythms free-ran for many cycles under constant conditions without cyclic environmental cues. Together, these data demonstrate that the palatable meal-inducible circadian oscillator (PICO) and wheel-inducible circadian oscillator (WICO) are generated by non-canonical circadian clocks. Entrainment of these novel oscillators by palatable snacks and timed exercise could become novel therapeutics for human conditions caused by disruptions of the circadian clocks.
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