Delayed cryptochrome degradation asymmetrically alters the daily rhythm in suprachiasmatic clock neuron excitability

Sven Wegner, Mino D.C. Belle, Alun T.L. Hughes, Casey O. Diekman, Hugh D. Piggins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) neurons contain an intracellular molecular circadian clock and the Cryptochromes (CRY1/2), key transcriptional repressors of this molecular apparatus, are subject to post-translational modification through ubiquitination and targeting for proteosomal degradation by the ubiquitin E3 ligase complex. Loss-of-function point mutations in a component of this ligase complex, Fbxl3, delay CRY1/2 degradation, reduce circadian rhythm strength, and lengthen the circadian period by ~2.5 h. The molecular clock drives circadian changes in the membrane properties of SCN neurons, but it is unclear how alterations in CRY1/2 stability affect SCN neurophysiology. Here we use male and female Afterhours mice which carry the circadian period lengthening loss-of-function Fbxl3Afh mutation and perform patch-clamp recordings from SCN brain slices across the projected day/night cycle. We find that the daily rhythm in membrane excitability in the ventral SCN (vSCN) was enhanced in amplitude and delayed in timing in Fbxl3Afh/Afh mice. At night, vSCN cells from Fbxl3Afh/Afh mice were more hyperpolarized, receiving more GABAergic input than their Fbxl3+/+counterparts. Unexpectedly, the progression to daytime hyperexcited states was slowed by Afh mutation, whereas the decline to hypoexcited states was accelerated. In long-term bioluminescence recordings, GABAA receptor blockade desynchronized the Fbxl3+/+ but not the Fbxl3Afh/Afh vSCN neuronal network. Further, a neurochemical mimic of the light input pathway evoked larger shifts in molecular clock rhythms in Fbxl3Afh/Afh compared with Fbxl3+/+ SCN slices. These results reveal unanticipated consequences of delaying CRY degradation, indicating that the Afh mutation prolongs nighttime hyperpolarized states of vSCN cells through increased GABAergic synaptic transmission.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7824-7836
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number33
StatePublished - Aug 16 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience


  • Brain slice
  • Circadian
  • Cryptochrome
  • Electrophysiology
  • Fbxl3
  • Post-translational modification
  • Suprachiasmatic


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