Melatonin Inhibits In Vitro Serotonergic Phase Shifts of the Suprachiasmatic Circadian Clock

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The suprachiasmatic (SCN) circadian pacemaker generates 24 h rhythms of spontaneous neuronal activity when isolated in an acute brain slice preparation. The isolated pacemaker also retains its capacity to be reset, or phase-shifted by exogenous stimuli. For example, serotonin (5-HT) agonists advance the SCN pacemaker when applied during mid subjective day, while neuropeptide Y (NPY) agonists and melatonin advance the pacemaker when applied during late subjective day. Previous work has demonstrated interactions between NPY and 5-HT agonists, such that NPY can block 5-HTergic phase advances, while 5-HT agonists do not prevent NPY-induced advances. Due to a number of similarities in the actions of melatonin and NPY in the SCN, it seemed possible that melatonin and 5-HT might interact in the SCN as well. Therefore, in this study potential interactions between melatonin and 5-HT agonists were explored. Melatonin inhibited phase advances by the 5-HT agonist, (+)DPAT, and this inhibition was decreased by co-application of tetrodotoxin. Conversely, melatonin was unable to block phase advances by the cyclic AMP analog, 8BA-cAMP. Finally, neither 5-HT agonists nor 8BA-AMP were able to block melatonin-induced phase advances. These results demonstrate a clear interaction between melatonin and 5-HT in the SCN, and suggest that melatonin and NPY may play similar roles with respect to modulating the phase of the SCN circadian pacemaker in rats.

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