Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Biologists uncover dynamic between biological clock and neuronal activity

Date:
September 25, 2012
Source:
New York University
Summary:
Biologists have uncovered one way that biological clocks control neuronal activity -- a discovery that sheds new light on sleep-wake cycles and offers potential new directions for research into therapies to address sleep disorders and jetlag.

NYU biologists have uncovered one way that biological clocks control neuronal activity—a discovery that sheds new light on sleep-wake cycles and offers potential new directions for research into therapies to address sleep disorders and jetlag.
Credit: © Paul Maguire / Fotolia

Biologists at New York University have uncovered one way that biological clocks control neuronal activity -- a discovery that sheds new light on sleep-wake cycles and offers potential new directions for research into therapies to address sleep disorders and jetlag.

"The findings answer a significant question -- how biological clocks drive the activity of clock neurons, which, in turn, regulate behavioral rhythms," explained Justin Blau, an associate professor in NYU's Department of Biology and the study's senior author.

Their findings appear in the Journal of Biological Rhythms.

Scientists have known that our biological clocks control neuronal activity. But not previously understood is how this process occurs -- that is, how does information from biological clocks drive rhythms in the electrical activity of pacemaker neurons that, in turn, drives daily rhythms?

To understand this mechanism, the researchers examined the biological, or circadian, clocks of Drosophila fruit flies, which are commonly used for research in this area. Earlier studies of "clock genes" in fruit flies allowed the identification of similarly functioning genes in humans.

In their study, the researchers focused on eight master pacemaker neurons located in the central brain -- these neurons set the timing of the daily transitions between sleep and wake in the fly. Specifically, they were able to isolate these neurons from animals and identify sets of genes differentially expressed between dawn and dusk.

In a series of follow-up experiments, they concentrated on one gene, Ir, whose expression was found to be much higher at dusk than at dawn and much more highly expressed in pacemaker neurons than in the rest of the brain. Ir encodes a potassium channel that helps set the resting state of neurons -- and so its rhythmic expression makes it an excellent candidate to help link the biological clock to pacemaker neuron activity. High levels of Ir expression at dusk should make it much harder for pacemaker neurons to signal than the low levels seen at dawn, a finding that fits with earlier studies showing that pacemaker neurons fire more at dawn than at dusk.

The authors also found that genetic manipulations that either increase or decrease Ir levels affect behavioral rhythms. Perhaps more interestingly, these were also associated with changes in the timing and strength of oscillations in the core clock.

"Biology is never as simple as we imagine it will be," explained Blau. "We were looking for an output of the biological clock that would link the core clock to neuronal activity. Ir seems to do this, but it also, remarkably, feeds back to regulate the core clock itself. Feedback loops seem to be deeply engrained into the biological clock and presumably help these clocks work so well."

The study's other co-authors were: Marc Ruben, a doctoral candidate; Mark Drapeau, a former postdoctoral researcher; and Dogukan Mizrak, a doctoral candidate. The study was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by New York University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Marc Ruben, Mark D. Drapeau, Dogukan Mizrak, and Justin Blau. A Mechanism for Circadian Control of Pacemaker Neuron Excitability. Journal of Biological Rhythms, 2012; 27: 353-364 DOI: 10.1177/0748730412455918

Cite This Page:

New York University. "Biologists uncover dynamic between biological clock and neuronal activity." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 September 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120925171220.htm>.
New York University. (2012, September 25). Biologists uncover dynamic between biological clock and neuronal activity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120925171220.htm
New York University. "Biologists uncover dynamic between biological clock and neuronal activity." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120925171220.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) — A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Thousands Of Vials Of SARS Virus Go Missing

Thousands Of Vials Of SARS Virus Go Missing

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) — A research institute in Paris somehow misplaced more than 2,000 vials of the deadly SARS virus. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Formerly Conjoined Twins Released From Dallas Hospital

Formerly Conjoined Twins Released From Dallas Hospital

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) — Conjoined twins Emmett and Owen Ezell were separated by doctors in August. Now, nearly nine months later, they're being released from the hospital. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Outbreak Now Linked To 121 Deaths

Ebola Outbreak Now Linked To 121 Deaths

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) — The ebola virus outbreak in West Africa is now linked to 121 deaths. Health officials fear the virus will continue to spread in urban areas. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins