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Science. 2009 Oct 9;326(5950):281-4. doi: 10.1126/science.1169657.

Daily electrical silencing in the mammalian circadian clock.

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Faculty of Life Sciences, A. V. Hill Building, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PT, UK.


Neurons in the brain's suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCNs), which control the timing of daily rhythms, are thought to encode time of day by changing their firing frequency, with high rates during the day and lower rates at night. Some SCN neurons express a key clock gene, period 1 (per1). We found that during the day, neurons containing per1 sustain an electrically excited state and do not fire, whereas non-per1 neurons show the previously reported daily variation in firing activity. Using a combined experimental and theoretical approach, we explain how ionic currents lead to the unusual electrophysiological behaviors of per1 cells, which unlike other mammalian brain cells can survive and function at depolarized states.

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