Knockout of the circadian gene, Per2, disrupts corticosterone secretion and results in depressive‐like behaviors and deficits in startle responses

Ashley L. Russell, Lauren Miller, Hannah Yi, Rita Keil, Robert J. Handa, T. John Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: The Period Circadian Regulator 2 (Per2) gene is important for the modulation of circadian rhythms that influence biological processes. Circadian control of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is critical for regulation of hormones involved in the stress response. Dysregulation of the HPA axis is associated with neuropsychiatric disorders. Therefore, it is important to understand how disruption of the circadian rhythm alters the HPA axis. One way to address this question is to delete a gene involved in regulating a central circadian gene such as Per2 in an animal model and to determine how this deletion may affect the HPA axis and behaviors that are altered when the HPA axis is dysregulated. To study this, corticosterone (CORT) levels were measured through the transition from light (inactive phase) to dark (active phase). Additionally, CORT levels as well as pituitary and adrenal mRNA expression were measured following a mild restraint stress. Mice were tested for depressive-like behaviors (forced swim test (FST)), acoustic startle response (ASR), and pre-pulse inhibition (PPI). Results: The present results showed that Per2 knockout impacted CORT levels, mRNA expression, depressive-like behaviors, ASR and PPI. Unlike wild-type (WT) mice, Per2 knockout (Per2) mice showed no diurnal rise in CORT levels at the onset of the dark cycle. Per2−/− mice had enhanced CORT levels and adrenal melanocortin receptor 2 (Mc2R) mRNA expression following restraint. There were no changes in expression of any other pituitary or adrenal gene. In the FST, Per2−/− mice spent more time floating (less time struggling) than WT mice, suggesting increased depressive-like behaviors. Per2−/− mice had deficits in ASR and PPI startle responses compared to WT mice. Conclusions: In summary, these findings showed that disruption of the circadian system via Per2 gene deletion dysregulated the HPA stress axis and is subsequently correlated with increased depressive-like behaviors and deficits in startle response.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5
JournalBMC Neuroscience
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Circadian
  • Corticosterone
  • Depression
  • Per2
  • Startle response

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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