Differential contribution of Ca2+ sources to day and night BK current activation in the circadian clock

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Large conductance K + (BK) channels are expressed widely in neurons, where their activation is regulated by membrane depolarization and intracellular Ca 2+ (Ca 2+ i ). To enable this regulation, BK channels functionally couple to both voltage-gated Ca 2+ channels (VGCCs) and channels mediating Ca 2+ release from intracellular stores. However, the relationship between BK channels and their specific Ca 2+ source for particular patterns of excitability is not well understood. In neurons within the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN)—the brain’s circadian clock—BK current, VGCC current, and Ca 2+ i are diurnally regulated, but paradoxically, BK current is greatest at night when VGCC current and Ca 2+ i are reduced. Here, to determine whether diurnal regulation of Ca 2+ is relevant for BK channel activation, we combine pharmacology with day and night patch-clamp recordings in acute slices of SCN. We find that activation of BK current depends primarily on three types of channels but that the relative contribution changes between day and night. BK current can be abrogated with nimodipine during the day but not at night, establishing that L-type Ca 2+ channels (LTCCs) are the primary daytime Ca 2+ source for BK activation. In contrast, dantrolene causes a significant decrease in BK current at night, suggesting that nighttime BK activation is driven by ryanodine receptor (RyR)–mediated Ca 2+ i release. The N- and P/Q-type Ca 2+ channel blocker ω-conotoxin MVIIC causes a smaller reduction of BK current that does not differ between day and night. Finally, inhibition of LTCCs, but not RyRs, eliminates BK inactivation, but the BK β2 subunit was not required for activation of BK current by LTCCs. These data reveal a dynamic coupling strategy between BK channels and their Ca 2+ sources in the SCN, contributing to diurnal regulation of SCN excitability.




Whitt, J. P., McNally, B. A., & Meredith, A. L. (2018). Differential contribution of Ca2+ sources to day and night BK current activation in the circadian clock. Journal of General Physiology, 150(2), 259–275. https://doi.org/10.1085/jgp.201711945

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