Electrophysiological effects of melatonin on mouse per1 and non-per1 suprachiasmatic nuclei neurones in vitro

F. F. Scott, M. D C Belle, P. Delagrange, H. D. Piggins

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The master circadian pacemaker in the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) regulates the nocturnal secretion of the pineal hormone melatonin. Melatonin, in turn, has feedback effects on SCN neuronal activity rhythms via high affinity G protein-coupled receptors (MT1 and MT2). However, the precise effects of melatonin on the electrical properties of individual SCN neurones are unclear. In the present study, we investigated the acute effects of exogenous melatonin on SCN neurones using whole-cell patch-clamp recordings in brain slices prepared from Per1::d2EGFP-expressing transgenic mice. In current-clamp mode, bath applied melatonin, at near-physiological concentrations (1 nm), hyperpolarised the majority (63.7%) of SCN neurones tested at all times of the projected light/dark cycle. In addition, melatonin depolarised a small proportion of cells (11.0%). No differences were observed for the effects of melatonin between Per1::GFP or non-Per1::GFP SCN neurones. Melatonin-induced effects were blocked by the MT1/MT2 antagonist, luzindole (1 μm) and the proportion of SCN neurones responsive to melatonin was greatly reduced in the presence of either tetrodotoxin (200 or 500 nm) or gabazine (20 μm). In voltage-clamp recordings, 1 nm melatonin increased the frequency of GABA-mediated currents. These findings indicate, for the first time, that exogenous melatonin can alter neuronal excitability in the majority of SCN neurones, regardless of whether or not they overtly express the core clock gene Per1. The results also suggest that melatonin acts mainly by modulating inhibitory GABAergic transmission within the SCN. This may explain why exogenous application of melatonin has heterogenous effects on individual SCN neurones. © 2010 The Authors. Journal of Neuroendocrinology © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1148-1156
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neuroendocrinology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010


  • Electrophysiology
  • In vitro
  • Melatonin
  • Per1
  • Suprachiasmatic


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