The intraocular pressure of mice displays a daily rhythmicity being highest during the dark period. The present study was performed to elucidate the role of the circadian clock and light in the diurnal and the circadian variations in intraocular pressure in mice, by using animals with disrupted clock function (VPAC2 receptor knockout mice) or impaired light information to the clock (PACAP knockout mice). In wildtype mice, intraocular pressure measured under light/dark conditions showed a statistically significant 24 h sinusoidal rhythm with nadir during the light phase and peak during the dark phase. After transfer of the wildtype mice into constant darkness, the intraocular pressure increased, but the rhythmic changes in intraocular pressure continued with a pattern identical to that obtained during the light/dark cycle. The intraocular pressure in VPAC2 receptor deficient mice during light/dark conditions also showed a sinusoidal pattern with significant changes as a function of a 24 h cycle. However, transfer of the VPAC2 receptor knockout mice into constant darkness completely abolished the rhythmic changes in intraocular pressure. The intraocular pressure in PACAP deficient mice oscillated significantly during both 24 h light and darkness and during constant darkness. During LD conditions, the amplitude of PACAP deficient was significantly lower compared to wildtype mice, resulting in higher daytime and lower nighttime values.
In conclusion, by studying the VPAC2 receptor knockout mouse which lacks circadian control and the PACAP knockout mouse which displays impaired light signaling, we provided evidence that the daily intraocular pressure rhythms are primarily generated by the circadian master clock and to a lesser extent by environmental light and darkness.