Meal timing protocols were used to probe the circadian regulation of DNA and protein synthesis in the rat tibia. Two groups of 4-week-old rats were entrained to 12-h light, 12-h dark cycles, (light, 0800-2000 h; darkness, 2000-0800 h) for 4 weeks. One group was fed for 4 h at the onset of the light span (EL). The other group was fed for 4 h at the onset of the dark span (ED). Forty-eight hours before death, the rats were injected ip with 0.015 μCi/g BW [14C]proline [collagen and noncollagen protein (NCP) synthesis], and they received 0.25 μCi/g BW [3H]thymidine (DNA synthesis) 1 h before death. Groups of 10-12 rats were bled from the abdominal aorta at 4-h intervals under light ether anesthesia (1-2 min/rat) during 2 consecutive 24-h periods, and the tibias were then biopsied and frozen in liquid N2. Serum samples were analyzed for calcium, inorganic phosphorus, and immunoassayable levels of corticosterone (CS), PTH, and calcitonin. Epiphyseal cartilage and metaphyseal and diaphyseal bone were analyzed for DNA and acidic pepsin-digestible collagen. Chronograms indicated that DNA synthesis in cartilage and bone, along with serum CS, showed two approximately equal and positively correlated peaks, with the cycles for rats fed EL vs. ED being in approximate antiphase. The fit of a 12-h cosine curve was statistically significant in all cases (P < 0.01). The acrophase peaks were: EL, 0800 and 2000 h; and ED, 1600 and 0400 h. These patterns were unrelated to those for NCP and collagen synthesis. EL and ED relationships for NCP synthesis were also antiphasal. A statistically significant circadian rhythm of collagen synthesis was detected in cartilage and bone of ED-fed rats (peak, 0800 h; nadir, 2400 h). In EL-fed rats, the 0800 h peak alone was muted. No consistent correlations were observed between serum calcium and phosphorus chronograms and those of cartilage and bone collagen and DNA synthesis. The results suggest that physiological alterations of CS in vivo serve to modulate cartilage and bone cell proliferation, but they do not seem to regulate the phasing of the net collagen synthetic rhythm.
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