Physiology of avian circadian pacemakers.

J. S. Takahashi, M. Menaker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


The pineal gland plays a cental role in the circadian organization of birds, although it is clearly only one component in a system with other components that have not yet been positively identified. The relative importance of the pineal and other components may vary from one group of birds to another. In the most thoroughly studied species, the house sparrow, pineal removal abolishes circadian rhythmicity; rhythmicity is restored by transplantation of a donor bird's pineal and the restored rhythm has the phase of the donor. This, and other evidence, argues convincingly that the pineal is a pacemaker in the sparrow circadian system. The pineal of the chicken has circadian rhythms in several biochemical parameters that result in the rhythmic synthesis of melatonin. The activity of one enzyme in this pathway is rhythmic for at least two cycles in organ culture. In view of this result it is interesting that pineal removal does not abolish circadian rhythmicity in chickens. The fact that lesions of the suprachiasmatic nuclei abolish circadian rhythms in sparrows, several mammalian species, and perhaps Japanese quail and reptiles, suggests that vertebrate circadian organization may be based on differentially weighted interactions between the pineal, the suprachiasmatic nuclei, and perhaps other brain regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2583-2588
Number of pages6
JournalFederation Proceedings
Issue number12
StatePublished - Nov 1979

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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