Intrinsic and extrinsic cues regulate the daily profile of mouse lateral habenula neuronal activity

K. Sakhi, S. Wegner, M.D.C. Belle, M. Howarth, P. Delagrange, T.M. Brown, H.D. Piggins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The epithalamic lateral habenula (LHb) is implicated as part of the mammalian brain's circadian system. Anatomical evidence suggests that the LHb receives extrinsic circadian timing cues from retinal ganglion cells and the master clock in the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN). Intriguingly, some LHb neurones contain the molecular circadian clock, but it is unclear if and how intrinsic and extrinsic circadian processes influence neuronal activity in the mouse LHb. Here, using an in vitro brain slice preparation isolating the LHb from the SCN, we show through whole-cell patch-clamp recordings that LHb neurones exhibit heterogeneity in their resting state, but the majority spontaneously fire action potentials (APs). Discharge rate of APs varied from low firing in the early day to higher firing later in the day and was absent in LHb brain slices prepared from Cry1(-/-)Cry2(-/-) mice that lack a functional molecular clock. Low amplitude circadian oscillations in the molecular circadian clock were also monitored in LHb brain slices, but were absent in Cry1(-/-)Cry2(-/-) LHb brain tissue. A putative neurochemical output signal of the SCN, prokineticin 2 (PK2), inhibited some LHb neurones by elevating the frequency of GABA release in the LHb. Using multielectrode recordings in vivo, we found that LHb neurones sluggishly respond to retinal illumination, suggesting that they receive such information through polysynaptic processes. In summary, our results show for the first time that intrinsic circadian signals are important for regulating LHb neuronal state, while the SCN-derived signal PK2 is less influential. Moreover, we demonstrate that mouse LHb neurones have access to and can respond to visual input, but such signals are unlikely to be directly communicated to the LHb. Broadly, these findings raise the possibility that intrinsic circadian signals are likely to be influential in shaping LHb contributions to cognition and emotionality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5025-5045
Number of pages21
JournalThe Journal of physiology
Issue number22
Early online date2 Sept 2014
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2014


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