The central role of the suprachiasmatic nuclei in regulating mammalian circadian rhythms is well established. We study the temporal organization of neuronal properties in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) using a rat hypothalamic brain slice preparation. Electrical properties of single neurons are monitored by extra-cellular and whole-cell patch recording techniques. The ensemble of neurons in the SCN undergoes circadian changes in spontaneous activity, membrane properties and sensitivity to phase adjustment. At any point in this cycle, diversity is observed in individual neurons' electrical properties, including firing rate, firing pattern and response to injected current. Nevertheless, the SCN generate stable, near 24 h oscillations in ensemble neuronal firing rate for at least three days in vitro. The rhythm is sinusoidal, with peak activity, a marker of phase, appearing near midday. In addition to these electrophysiological changes, the SCN undergoes sequential changes in vitro in sensitivities to adjustment. During subjective day, the SCN progresses through periods of sensitivity to cyclic AMP, serotonin, neuropeptide Y, and then to melatonin at dusk. During the subjective night, sensitivities to glutamate, cyclic GMP and then neuropeptide Y are followed by a second period of sensitivity to melatonin at dawn. Because the SCN, when maintained in vitro, is under constant conditions and isolated from afferents, these changes must be generated within the clock in the SCN. The changing sensitivities reflect underlying temporal domains that are characterized by specific sets of biochemical and molecular relationships which occur in an ordered sequence over the circadian cycle.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Pages (from-to)||134-144; discussion 144-153|
|Journal||Ciba Foundation symposium|
|State||Published - 1995|
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