Serotonergic Actions and Interactions on the SCN Circadian Pacemaker: In Vitro Investigations

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The phase of the mammalian circadian pacemaker located in the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) is controlled by a multitude of stimuli. While phase control is undoubtedly dominated by photic input, the serotonergic input from the raphe nuclei also influences SCN clock phase. In this article I review the evidence for serotonergic modulation of the SCN pacemaker, and the cellular mechanisms underlying these effects, obtained from in vitro experiments performed during the past decade. Serotonin can advance the SCN pacemaker when applied during the subjective day, and delay the pacemaker when applied during the subjective night. The daytime advances appear due to stimulation of 5HT7 receptors, activation of adenylate cyclase and protein kinase A, and opening of K+ channels. The synthesis of new proteins may also be critical for these phase shifts. Serotonergic phase advances can be inhibited by a variety of other modulatory inputs to the SCN, including neuropeptide Y, melatonin, and glutamate. Together, these data demonstrate that SCN circadian pacemaker phase is controlled by a complex interplay between multiple afferent stimuli, and that serotonin plays a critical role in this process.

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