Working for food shifts nocturnal mouse activity into the day.
Hut RA., Pilorz V., Boerema AS., Strijkstra AM., Daan S.
Nocturnal rodents show diurnal food anticipatory activity when food access is restricted to a few hours in daytime. Timed food access also results in reduced food intake, but the role of food intake in circadian organization per se has not been described. By simulating natural food shortage in mice that work for food we show that reduced food intake alone shifts the activity phase from the night into the day and eventually causes nocturnal torpor (natural hypothermia). Release into continuous darkness with ad libitum food, elicits immediate reversal of activity to the previous nocturnal phase, indicating that the classical circadian pacemaker maintained its phase to the light-dark cycle. This flexibility in behavioral timing would allow mice to exploit the diurnal temporal niche while minimizing energy expenditure under poor feeding conditions in nature. This study reveals an intimate link between metabolism and mammalian circadian organization.