Factors Affecting Slow Regular Firing in the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus In Vitro

Thomson, A.M. and West, D.C. (1990) Factors Affecting Slow Regular Firing in the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus In Vitro. Journal of Biological Rhythms, 5 (1). pp. 59-75. 10.1177/074873049000500106.

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DOI: 10.1177/074873049000500106


In isolated slices of hypothalamus, suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) neurons were recorded intracellularly. Blockade of Ca++ channels increased spike duration, eliminating an early component of the afterhyperpolarization (AHP) that followed evoked spikes. The duration and reversal potential of AHPs were, however, unaffected, suggesting that only an early, fast component of the AHP was Ca++ -dependent. Unlike other central neurons that exhibit pacemaker activity, therefore, SCN neurons do not display a pronounced, long-lasting Ca++-dependent AHP. Extracellular Ba++ and intracellular Cs+ both revealed slow depolarizing potentials evoked either by depolarizing current injection, or by repolarization following large hyperpolarizations. They had different effects on the shape of spikes and the AHPs that followed them, however. Cs+, which blocks almost all K+ channels, dramatically reduced resting potential, greatly increased spike duration (to tens of milliseconds), and blocked AHPs completely. In contrast, Ba++ had little effect on resting potential and produced only a small increase in spike duration, depressing an early Ca++-dependent component and a later Ca+ -independent component of the AHP. The relatively weak pacemaker activity of SCN neurons appears to involve voltage- dependent activation of at least one slowly inactivating inward current, which brings the cells to firing threshold and maintains tonic firing; both Ca++ -dependent and Ca+ -independent K+ channels, which repolarize cells after spikes and maintain interspike intervals; and Ca++ channels, which contribute to activation of Ca++-activated K+ currents and may also contribute to slow depolarizing potentials. In the absence of powerful synaptic inputs, SCN neurons express a pacemaker activity that is sufficient to maintain an impressively regular firing pattern. Slow, repetitive activation of optic input, however, increases local circuit activity to such an extent that the normal pacemaker potentials are overridden and firing patterns are altered. Since SCN neurons are very small and have large input resistances, they are particularly susceptible to synaptic input.

Item Type:Article
Departments, units and centres:Department of Pharmacology > Department of Pharmacology
ID Code:2664
Journal or Publication Title:Journal of Biological Rhythms
Deposited By:Library Staff
Deposited On:13 Jan 2012 17:02
Last Modified:13 Jan 2012 17:02

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