November 28, 2020

The cell-autonomous clock of VIP receptor VPAC2 cells drives circadian behaviour

Circadian (~daily) rhythms pervade mammalian behaviour. They are generated by cell-autonomous, transcriptional/translational feedback loops (TTFL), active in all tissues. This distributed clock network is co-ordinated by the principal circadian pacemaker, the hypothalamic suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). Its robust and accurate time-keeping arises from circuit-level interactions that bind its individual cellular clocks into a coherent time-keeper. Cells that express the neuropeptide vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) mediate retinal entrainment of the SCN, and in the absence of VIP, or its cognate receptor VPAC2, circadian behaviour is compromised because SCN cells cannot synchronise. The contributions to SCN pacemaking and circadian behaviour of other cell types, not least the VPAC2-expressing target cells of VIP, are, however, not understood. We therefore employed intersectional genetics to manipulate the cell-autonomous TTFL of VPAC2-expressing cells, creating temporally chimaeric mice. We could then determine whether and how VPAC2-expressing cells (a minority ~35% of SCN cells) contribute to SCN time-keeping. Lengthening of the intrinsic TTFL period of VPAC2 cells by deletion of the CK1{varepsilon}Tau allele concomitantly lengthened the period of circadian behavioural rhythms. It also increased the variability of the circadian period of bioluminescent TTFL rhythms in SCN slices recorded ex vivo. Abrogation of circadian competence in VPAC2 cells by deletion of Bmal1 severely disrupted circadian behavioural rhythms and compromised TTFL time-keeping in the corresponding SCN slices. Thus, VPAC2-expressing cells are a distinct, functionally powerful subset of the SCN circuit, contributing to computation of ensemble period and maintenance of circadian robustness. These findings extend our understanding of SCN circuit topology.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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