Neurons in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) display coordinated circadian changes in electrical activity that are critical for daily rhythms in physiology, metabolism, and behavior. SCN neurons depolarize spontaneously and fire repetitively during the day and hyperpolarize, drastically reducing firing rates, at night. To explore the hypothesis that rapidly activating and inactivating A-type (I A) voltage-gated K + (Kv) channels, which are also active at subthreshold membrane potentials, are critical regulators of the excitability of SCN neurons, we examined locomotor activity and SCN firing in mice lacking Kv1.4 (Kv1.4 -/-), Kv4.2 (Kv4.2 -/-), or Kv4.3 (Kv4.3 -/-), the pore-forming (α) subunits of I A channels. Mice lacking either Kv1.4 or Kv4.2 α subunits have markedly shorter (0.5 h) periods of locomotor activity than wild-type (WT) mice. In vitro extracellular multi-electrode recordings revealed that Kv1.4 -/-and Kv4.2 -/-SCN neurons display circadian rhythms in repetitive firing, but with shorter periods (0.5 h) than WT cells. In contrast, the periods of wheel-running activity in Kv4.3 -/- mice and firing in Kv4.3 -/- SCN neurons were indistinguishable from WT animals and neurons. Quantitative real-time PCR revealed that the transcripts encoding all three Kv channelα subunits, Kv1.4, Kv4.2, and Kv4.3, are expressed constitutively throughout the day and night in the SCN. Together, these results demonstrate that Kv1.4- and Kv4.2-encoded I A channels regulate the intrinsic excitability of SCN neurons during the day and night and determine the period and amplitude of circadian rhythms in SCN neuron firing and locomotor behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10045-10052
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number29
StatePublished - Jul 18 2012


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