The effects of acute stress on the peripheral circadian system are not well understood in vivo. Here, we show that sub-acute stress caused by restraint or social defeat potently altered clock gene expression in the peripheral tissues of mice. In these peripheral tissues, as well as the hippocampus and cortex, stressful stimuli induced time-of-day-dependent phase-advances or -delays in rhythmic clock gene expression patterns; however, such changes were not observed in the suprachiasmatic nucleus, i.e. the central circadian clock. Moreover, several days of stress exposure at the beginning of the light period abolished circadian oscillations and caused internal desynchronisation of peripheral clocks. Stress-induced changes in circadian rhythmicity showed habituation and disappeared with long-term exposure to repeated stress. These findings suggest that sub-acute physical/psychological stress potently entrains peripheral clocks and causes transient dysregulation of circadian clocks in vivo.
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