Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Vincent Cassone


Circadian rhythm is a biological rhythm with period of about 24 hours. Circadian rhythm is universal in phyla from bacteria to mammals and exists in different level from gene expression to behavior. Circadian system consists of three components: 1) a self-sustained oscillator; 2) an input pathway which can alter the phase of the oscillator; and 3) an output such as gene expression, enzyme activity, hormone production, heart rate, body temperature or locomotor activities. The way the oscillator regulates its outputs is complicated, in that on one hand usually the oscillator is not the only factor affecting the outputs, and on the other, the oscillator itself is incorporated in intricate pathways.

Chicken pineal cell culture is a well-established in vitro model to study circadian rhythm. It contains a self-sustained oscillator which can be phase-shifted by light as input and rhythmically releases melatonin as an output. Here I have characterized the role of norepinephrine (NE), the sympathetic regulatory input of pineal gland, and the microenvironment of pineal cells in melatonin rhythmicity of cultured chicken pineal cells. Chapter 1 of this dissertation provides a review of circadian rhythm with a focus on melatonin regulation in pineal gland. Chapter 2 describes the methods to build up a fraction collector which offers high time resolution of sampling for a superfusion system. Chapter 3 is a technical report of a melatonin enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay suitable for high throughput measurement of melatonin. Chapter 4 presents data demonstrating that daily administration of NE recovers damped melatonin rhythm in constant darkness. In addition, NE does not change the expression of clock genes but the recovery effect of NE depends on the internal clock. Furthermore, the data indicates that NE administration stimulates the gene expression of phosphodiesterase 4D (PDE4D) and adenylate cyclase 1 (AC1) in a time order, potentially corresponding to the trough and peak of recovered melatonin rhythm. Chapter 5 presents data showing that the amplitude of melatonin rhythm in cultured pineal cells is affected by microenvironments of the cell culture and connexin plays a role in this effect. Finally, in Chapter 6 I discuss how the results of each chapter demonstrate multiple regulatory mechanism of the melatonin rhythm of chicken pineal cells. Furthermore, I discuss the implications of this work in the field of developmental biology and how the current data will shape future investigations.

My dissertation incorporates engineering, immunocytochemistry, chicken genetics, and biochemical analyses, and will help in better understanding the regulation mechanism of output in a circadian system.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)