Circadian rhythms in mammals are orchestrated by a central clock within the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN). Our understanding of the electrophysiological basis of SCN activity comes overwhelmingly from a small number of nocturnal rodent species, and the extent to which these are retained in day-active animals remains unclear. Here, we recorded the spontaneous and evoked electrical activity of single SCN neurons in the diurnal rodent Rhabdomys pumilio, and developed cutting-edge data assimilation and mathematical modeling approaches to uncover the underlying ionic mechanisms. As in nocturnal rodents, R. pumilio SCN neurons were more excited during daytime hours. By contrast, the evoked activity of R. pumilio neurons included a prominent suppressive response that is not present in the SCN of nocturnal rodents. Our modeling revealed and subsequent experiments confirmed transient subthreshold A-type potassium channels as the primary determinant of this response, and suggest a key role for this ionic mechanism in optimizing SCN function to accommodate R. pumilio’s diurnal niche.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)