The gray mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus), a prosimian primate, exhibits seasonal rhythms strictly controlled by photoperiodic variations. Previous studies indicated that longevity can be altered by long-term acceleration of seasonal rhythms, providing a model for assessing various aspects of aging. To assess the effect of aging and accelerated aging on the circadian system of this primate, we compared the circadian rhythm of the locomotor activity in adult mouse lemurs (2-4.5 years, n = 9), aged mouse lemurs (5-9 years, n = 10), and adult mouse lemurs that had been exposed from birth to a shortened seasonal photoperiodic cycle (2-4.5 years, n = 7). Compared to adult animals, aged mouse lemurs showed a significant increase in intradaily variability and an advanced activity onset. Aging was characterized by a decrease in amplitude, with both a decrease in nocturnal activity and an increase in daytime activity. When maintained in constant dim red light, aged animals exhibited a shortening of the free-running period (22.8 +/- 0.1 h) compared to adult animals (23.5 +/- 0.1 h). A 3- to 5-year exposure to an accelerated seasonal photoperiodic rhythm ("annual" duration of 5 months) in accelerated mouse lemurs produced disturbances of the locomotor activity rhythm that resembled those of aged mouse lemurs, whether animals were studied in entrained or in free-running conditions. The present study demonstrated a weakened and fragmented locomotor activity rhythm during normal aging in this primate. Increasing the number of expressed seasonal cycles accelerated aging of parameters related to circadian rhythmicity in adult animals.
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