Bridging the gap: coupling single-cell oscillators in the suprachiasmatic nucleus.

Nature Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 14.98). 02/2005; 8(1):10-2. DOI: 10.1038/nn0105-10
Source: PubMed
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    ABSTRACT: The circadian pacemaker of the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) contains a major pacemaker for 24 h rhythms that is synchronized to the external light-dark cycle. In response to a shift in the external cycle, neurons of the SCN resynchronize with different pace. We performed electrical activity recordings of the SCN of rats in vitro following a 6 hour delay of the light-dark cycle and observed a bimodal electrical activity pattern with a shifted and an unshifted component. The shifted component was relatively narrow as compared to the unshifted component (2.2 h and 5.7 h, respectively). Curve fitting and simulations predicted that less than 30% of the neurons contribute to the shifted component and that their phase distribution is small. This prediction was confirmed by electrophysiological recordings of neuronal subpopulations. Only 25% of the neurons exhibited an immediate shift in the phase of the electrical activity rhythms, and the phases of the shifted subpopulations appeared significantly more synchronized as compared to the phases of the unshifted subpopulations (p<0.05). We also performed electrical activity recordings of the SCN following a 9 hour advance of the light-dark cycle. The phase advances induced a large desynchrony among the neurons, but consistent with the delays, only 19% of the neurons peaked at the mid of the new light phase. The data suggest that resetting of the central circadian pacemaker to both delays and advances is brought about by an initial shift of a relatively small group of neurons that becomes highly synchronized following a shift in the external cycle. The high degree of synchronization of the shifted neurons may add to the ability of this group to reset the pacemaker. The large desynchronization observed following advances may contribute to the relative difficulty of the circadian system to respond to advanced light cycles.
    PLoS ONE 09/2011; 6(9):e25437. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0025437 · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In higher organisms, circadian rhythms are generated by a multicellular genetic clock that is entrained very efficiently to the 24-h light-dark cycle. Most studies done so far of these circadian oscillators have considered a perfectly periodic driving by light, in the form of either a square wave or a sinusoidal modulation. However, in natural conditions, organisms are subject to nonnegligible fluctuations in the light level all through the daily cycle. In this article, we investigate how the interplay between light fluctuations and intercellular coupling affects the dynamics of the collective rhythm in a large ensemble of nonidentical, globally coupled cellular clocks modeled as Goodwin oscillators. On the basis of experimental considerations, we assume an inverse dependence of the cell-cell coupling strength on the light intensity, in such a way that the larger the light intensity, the weaker the coupling. Our results show a noise-induced rhythm generation for constant light intensities at which the clock is arrhythmic in the noise-free case. Importantly, the rhythm shows a resonancelike phenomenon as a function of the noise intensity. Such improved coherence can be only observed at the level of the overt rhythm and not at the level of the individual oscillators, thus suggesting a cooperative effect of noise, coupling, and the emerging synchronization between the oscillators.
    Biophysical Journal 06/2009; 96(9):3573-81. DOI:10.1016/j.bpj.2009.02.031 · 3.83 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In mammals, a major circadian pacemaker that drives daily rhythms is located in the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN), at the base of the hypothalamus. The SCN receive direct light input via the retino-hypothalamic tract. Light during the early night induces phase delays of circadian rhythms while during the late night it leads to phase advances. The effects of light on the circadian system are strongly dependent on the photoperiod to which animals are exposed. An explanation for this phenomenon is currently lacking. We recorded running wheel activity in C57 mice and observed large amplitude phase shifts in short photoperiods and small shifts in long photoperiods. We investigated whether these different light responses under short and long days are expressed within the SCN by electrophysiological recordings of electrical impulse frequency in SCN slices. Application of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) induced sustained increments in electrical activity that were not significantly different in the slices from long and short photoperiods. These responses led to large phase shifts in slices from short days and small phase shifts in slices from long days. An analysis of neuronal subpopulation activity revealed that in short days the amplitude of the rhythm was larger than in long days. The data indicate that the photoperiodic dependent phase responses are intrinsic to the SCN. In contrast to earlier predictions from limit cycle theory, we observed large phase shifting responses in high amplitude rhythms in slices from short days, and small shifts in low amplitude rhythms in slices from long days. We conclude that the photoperiodic dependent phase responses are determined by the SCN and propose that synchronization among SCN neurons enhances the phase shifting capacity of the circadian system.
    PLoS ONE 02/2009; 4(3):e4976. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0004976 · 3.53 Impact Factor

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