Circannual rhythms of maturation in the female rainbow trout and their entrainment by changes in photoperiod
The importance of endogenous rhythms in the photoperiodic control of the annual reproduction cycle in female rainbow trout was investigated. The effect of photoperiod regimes on the different stages of maturation was assessed by recording the timing of ovulation and from quantifying associated changes in serum oestradiol-17,testosterone and total calcium. Maintained under constant 6L:18D and constant temperature for up to four years, rainbow trout exhibited an endogenous rhythm of maturation with a periodicity of approximately one year. This rhythm of maturation appears to be driven by an autonomous circannual oscillator or clock which can be dissociated from the neuroendocrine mechanisms controlling gonadal maturation. Under conditions of constant 18L:6D or LL the periodicity of the maturation rhythm was 5.5-6 months; it is suggested that this periodicity may be caused by a splitting or uncoupling of at least two circannual clocks involved in the control of maturation. Abrupt changes in the length of the photoperiod act as a zeitgeber to entrain the endogenous rhythm of maturation. Whether the timing of maturation is advanced or delayed depends primarily on the direction of the change in photoperiod and its timing in relation to the phase of the rhythm, with the magnitude of the alteration in photoperiod having only a supplementary effect. The effect of specific changes in photoperiod on the entrainment of the maturation cycle can be described in terms of a phase-response curve. Photic information is transduced, probably by the pineal gland, into a daily rhythm of melatonin; exposure of rainbow trout to skeleton and resonance photoperiod regimes indicated that daylength measurement is effected by endogenous circadian clock(s) rather than by hour-glass mechanisms. A gating mechanism is closely associated with the circannual clock which determines the timing of onset of maturation in virgin female rainbow trout, only allowing fish that have attained a threshold stage of development to undergo gonadal maturation. Collectively the results support the hypothesis that the female rainbow trout exhibits an endogenous circannual rhythm of maturation which can be entrained by changes in photoperiod.