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J Comp Physiol A. 1987 Aug;161(3):335-46.

The Bulla ocular circadian pacemaker. I. Pacemaker neuron membrane potential controls phase through a calcium-dependent mechanism.

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Department of Biology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville 22901.


In an effort to understand the cellular basis of entrainment of circadian oscillators we have studied the role of membrane potential changes in the neurons which comprise the ocular circadian pacemaker of Bulla gouldiana in mediating phase shifts of the ocular circadian rhythm. We report that: 1. Intracellular recording was used to measure directly the effects of the phase shifting agents light, serotonin, and 8-bromo-cAMP on the membrane potential of the basal retinal neurons. We found that light pulses evoke a transient depolarization followed by a smaller sustained depolarization. Application of serotonin produced a biphasic response; a transient depolarization followed by a sustained hyperpolarization. Application of a membrane permeable analog of the intracellular second messenger cAMP, 8-bromo-cAMP, elicited sustained hyperpolarization, and occasionally a weak phasic depolarization. 2. Changing the membrane potential of the basal retinal neurons directly and selectively with intracellularly injected current phase shifts the ocular circadian rhythm. Both depolarizing and hyperpolarizing current can shift the phase of the circadian oscillator. Depolarizing current mimics the phase shifting action of light, while hyperpolarizing current produces phase shifts which are transposed approximately 180 degrees in circadian time to depolarization. 3. Altering BRN membrane potential with ionic treatments, depolarizing with elevated K+ seawater or hyperpolarizing with lowered Na+ seawater, produces phase shifts similar to current injection. 4. The light-induced depolarization of the basal retinal neurons is necessary for phase shifts by light. Suppressing the light-induced depolarization with injected current inhibits light-induced phase shifts. 5. The ability of membrane potential changes to shift oscillator phase is dependent on extracellular calcium. Reducing extracellular free Ca++ from 10 mM to 1.3 X 10(-7) M inhibits light-induced phase shifts without blocking the photic response of the BRNs. The results indicate that changes in the membrane potential of the pacemaker neurons play a critical role in phase shifting the circadian rhythm, and imply that a voltage-dependent and calcium-dependent process, possibly Ca++ influx, shifts oscillator phase in response to light.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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