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Endocrinology. 2014 Feb;155(2):525-35. doi: 10.1210/en.2013-1604. Epub 2013 Nov 21.

The suprachiasmatic nucleus changes the daily activity of the arcuate nucleus α-MSH neurons in male rats.

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Instituto de Investigaciones Biomédicas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria PC 04510 Mexico D.F.


Timing of metabolic processes is crucial for balanced physiology; many studies have shown the deleterious effects of untimely food intake. The basis for this might be an interaction between the arcuate nucleus (ARC) as the main integration site for metabolic information and the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) as the master clock. Here we show in male rats that the SCN influences ARC daily neuronal activity by imposing a daily rhythm on the α-MSH neurons with a peak in neuronal activity at the end of the dark phase. Bilateral SCN lesions showed a complete disappearance of ARC neuronal rhythms and unilateral SCN lesions showed a decreased activation in the ARC at the lesioned side. Moreover light exposure during the dark phase inhibited ARC and α-MSH neuronal activity. The daily inhibition of ARC neuronal activity occurred in light-dark conditions as well as in dark-dark conditions, demonstrating the inhibitory effect to be mediated by increased SCN (subjective) day neuronal activity. Injections into the SCN with the neuronal tracer cholera toxin B showed that α-MSH neurons receive direct projections from the SCN. The present study demonstrates that the SCN activates and possibly also inhibits depending on the moment of the circadian cycle ARC α-MSH neurons via direct neuronal input. The persistence of these activity patterns in fasted animals demonstrates that this SCN-ARC interaction is not necessarily satiety associated but may support physiological functions associated with changes in the sleep-wake cycle.

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