Adult rabbits show robust circadian rhythms of: nursing, food and water intake, hard faeces excretion, locomotion, body temperature, blood and intraocular pressure, corticosteroid secretion, and sleep. Control of several circadian rhythms involves a light-entrained circadian clock and a food-entrained oscillator. Nursing periodicity, however, relies on a suckling stimulation threshold. Brain structures regulating this activity include the paraventricular nucleus and preoptic area, as determined by lesions and quantification of cFOS- and PER1 clock gene-immunoreactive proteins. Melatonin synthesis in the rabbit pineal gland shows a diurnal rhythm, with highest values at night and lowest ones during the day. In kits the main zeitgeber is milk intake, which synchronizes locomotor activity, body temperature, and corticosterone secretion. Brain regions involved in these effects include the median preoptic nucleus and several olfactory structures. As models for particular human illnesses rabbits have been valuable for studying glaucoma and cardiovascular disease. Circadian variations in intraocular pressure (main risk factor for glaucoma) have been found, with highest values at night, which depend on sympathetic innervation. Rabbits fed a high fat diet develop cholesterol plaques and high blood pressure, as do humans, and such increased fat intake directly modulates cardiovascular homeostasis and circadian patterns, independently of white adipose tissue accumulation. Rabbits have also been useful to investigate the characteristics of sleep across the day and its modulation by infections, cytokines and other endogenous humoral factors. Rabbit circadian biology warrants deeper investigation of the role of the suprachiasmatic nucleus in regulating most behavioral and physiological rhythms described above.
Última actualización: 26/02/2020