There are few model fish that are both edible and suitable for use in the laboratory. The Japanese loach (Misgurnus anguillicaudatus) is a traditional food in Japan, but is highly neglected despite its great nutritional value. To understand its circadian system and photic input pathway for synchronization of physiological activities to environmental light-dark cycles, we measured locomotor activity under light-dark and constant dark (DD) conditions. Locomotor activity was found to be higher in the nighttime than daytime, and its rhythmicity was weakened under DD conditions. The nocturnal activity of the Japanese loach is mainly controlled by environmental light, rather than the circadian clock. We explored the circadian regulation and light-responsiveness of clock gene expression in the eyes of loaches. The daily expression profiles of its mRNA revealed that most of the examined Cry and Per genes were likely regulated by internal circadian and/or environmental light signals. Among the Opsin genes transcribed in the eye, we detected the retinal photopigment porphyropsin at the protein level, which was lower than in mice. This property of loach eyes prompted us to analyze the locomotor activities of eye-enucleated fish. As a result, they still showed nocturnal circadian activity. Thus, it is likely that extraocular photoreceptive tissue(s) also contribute to the photic input pathway, although loach eyes are a circadian photosensitive tissue. This suggests that the loach mainly uses not its vision but other stimuli, such as mechanical or chemical stimuli, detected by barbels, to coordinate its nocturnal behavior.
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