Significance: Functional states of organisms vary rhythmically with a period of about a day (i.e., circadian). This endogenous dynamic is shaped by day-night alternations in light and energy. Mammalian circadian rhythms are orchestrated by the hypothalamic suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), a brain region specialized for timekeeping. These autonomous ∼24-h oscillations are cell-based, requiring transcription-translation-based regulation. SCN circadian oscillations include the maintenance of intrinsic rhythms, sensitivities to input signals, and generation of output signals. These change predictably as time proceeds from dawn to day, dusk, and through the night. SCN neuronal excitability, a highly energy-demanding process, also oscillates over ∼24 h. The nature of the relationship of cellular metabolism and excitability had been unknown. Recent Advances: Global SCN redox state was found to undergo an autonomous circadian rhythm. Redox state is relatively reduced in daytime, when neuronal activity is high, and oxidized during nighttime, when neurons are relatively inactive. Redox modulates neuronal excitability via tight coupling: imposed reducing or oxidizing shifts immediately alter membrane excitability. Whereas an intact transcription-translation oscillator is necessary for the redox oscillation, metabolic modulation of excitability is too rapid to be under clockwork control. Critical Issues: Our observations lead to the hypothesis that redox state and neuronal activity are coupled nontranscriptional circadian oscillators in SCN neurons. Critical issues include discovering molecular and cellular substrates and functional consequences of this redox oscillator. Future Directions: Understanding interdependencies between cellular energy metabolism, neuronal activity, and circadian rhythms is critical to developing therapeutic strategies for treating neurodegenerative diseases and brain metabolic syndromes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2955-2965
Number of pages11
JournalAntioxidants and Redox Signaling
Issue number18
StatePublished - Jun 20 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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