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J Mol Biol. 2020 Jan 26. pii: S0022-2836(20)30071-1. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2020.01.019. [Epub ahead of print]

Molecular-genetic Manipulation of the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus Circadian Clock.

Author information

1
Division of Neurobiology, MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Francis Crick Avenue, Cambridge Biomedical Campus, Cambridge, CB2 0QH, UK. Electronic address: mha@mrc-lmb.cam.ac.uk.
2
Division of Neurobiology, MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Francis Crick Avenue, Cambridge Biomedical Campus, Cambridge, CB2 0QH, UK.

Abstract

Circadian (approximately daily) rhythms of physiology and behaviour adapt organisms to the alternating environments of day and night. The suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the hypothalamus is the principal circadian timekeeper of mammals. The mammalian cell-autonomous circadian clock is built around a self-sustaining transcriptional-translational negative feedback loop (TTFL) in which the negative regulators Per and Cry suppress their own expression, which is driven by the positive regulators Clock and Bmal1. Importantly, such TTFL-based clocks are present in all major tissues across the organism, and the SCN is their central co-ordinator. First, we analyse SCN timekeeping at the cell-autonomous and the circuit-based levels of organisation. We consider how molecular-genetic manipulations have been used to probe cell-autonomous timing in the SCN, identifying the integral components of the clock. Second, we consider new approaches that enable real-time monitoring of the activity of these clock components and clock-driven cellular outputs. Finally, we review how intersectional genetic manipulations of the cell-autonomous clockwork can be used to determine how SCN cells interact to generate an ensemble circadian signal. Critically, it is these network-level interactions that confer on the SCN its emergent properties of robustness, light-entrained phase and precision- properties that are essential for its role as the central co-ordinator. Remaining gaps in knowledge include an understanding of how the TTFL proteins behave individually and in complexes: whether particular SCN neuronal populations act as pacemakers, and if so, by which signalling mechanisms, and finally the nature of the recently discovered role of astrocytes within the SCN network.

KEYWORDS:

astrocytes; cryptochrome; neurons; period; translational switching

PMID:
31996314
DOI:
10.1016/j.jmb.2020.01.019

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