Food availability is a potent environmental cue that directs circadian locomotor activity in rodents. Even though nocturnal rodents prefer to forage at night, daytime food anticipatory activity (FAA) is observed prior to short meals presented at a scheduled time of day. Under this restricted feeding regimen, rodents exhibit two distinct bouts of activity, a nocturnal activity rhythm that is entrained to the light-dark cycle and controlled by the master clock in the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) and a daytime bout of activity that is phase-locked to mealtime. FAA also occurs during food deprivation, suggesting that a food-entrainable oscillator (FEO) keeps time in the absence of scheduled feeding. Previous studies have demonstrated that the FEO is anatomically distinct from the SCN and that FAA is observed in mice lacking some circadian genes essential for timekeeping in the SCN. In the current study, we optimized the conditions for examining FAA during restricted feeding and food deprivation in mice lacking functional BMAL1, which is critical for circadian rhythm generation in the SCN. We found that BMAL1-deficient mice displayed FAA during restricted feeding in 12hr light:12hr dark (12L:12D) and 18L:6D lighting cycles, but distinct activity during food deprivation was observed only in 18L:6D. While BMAL1-deficient mice also exhibited robust FAA during restricted feeding in constant darkness, mice were hyperactive during food deprivation so it was not clear that FAA consistently occurred at the time of previously scheduled food availability. Taken together, our findings suggest that optimization of experimental conditions such as photoperiod may be necessary to visualize FAA in genetically modified mice. Furthermore, the expression of FAA may be possible without a circadian oscillator that depends on BMAL1
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