Journal article Open Access

Circadian rhythm in membrane conductance expressed in isolated neurons

Michel, S.; Geusz, M.; Zaritsky, J.; Block, G.

Although isolated neurons can generate rhythmic activity, they have not yet been shown to generate rhythms with a period in the circadian range (near 24 hours). The eye of the mollusk Bulla gouldiana expresses a circadian rhythm in optic nerve impulses that is generated by electrically coupled cells known as basal retinal neurons (BRNs). Daily fluctuations in the membrane potential of the BRNs appear to be driven by a rhythm in membrane conductance. Isolated BRNs exhibited spontaneous conductance changes similar to those observed in the intact retina. Membrane conductance was high in the late subjective night and decreased approximately twofold near projected dawn during at least two circadian cycles in culture. The persistence of daily conductance changes in isolated BRNs indicates that individual neurons can function as circadian pacemakers.
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