The mammalian circadian clock in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) drives and maintains 24-h physiological rhythms, the phases of which are set by the local environmental light-dark cycle. Gastrin-releasing peptide (GRP) communicates photic phase setting signals in the SCN by increasing neurophysiological activity of SCN neurons. Here, the ionic basis for persistent GRP-induced changes in neuronal activity was investigated in SCN slice cultures from Per1::GFP reporter mice during the early night. Recordings from Per1 -fluorescent neurons in SCN slices several hours after GRP treatment revealed a significantly greater action potential frequency, a significant increase in voltage-activated outward current at depolarized potentials, and a significant increase in 4-aminopyridine-sensitive fast delayed rectifier (fDR) potassium currents when compared to vehicle-treated slices. In addition, the persistent increase in spike rate following early-night GRP application was blocked in SCN neurons from mice deficient in Kv3 channel proteins. Because fDR currents are regulated by the clock and are elevated in amplitude during the day, the present results support the model that GRP delays the phase of the clock during the early night by prolonging day-like membrane properties of SCN cells. Furthermore, these findings implicate fDR currents in the ionic basis for GRP-mediated entrainment of the primary mammalian circadian pacemaker.
© 2011 Sage Publications