The hypothalamic suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN), the circadian master clock in mammals, releases ATP in a rhythm, but the role of extracellular ATP in the SCN is still unknown. In this study, we examined the expression and function of ATP-gated P2X receptors (P2XRs) in the SCN neurons of slices isolated from the brain of 16- to 20-day-old rats. Quantitative RT-PCR showed that the SCN contains mRNAfor P2X 1-7 receptors and several G-protein-coupled P2Y receptors.Amongthe P2XR subunits, the P2X2>P2X7> P2X4mRNAs were the most abundant. Whole-cell patch-clamp recordings from SCN neurons revealed that extracellular ATP application increased the frequency of spontaneous GABAergic IPSCs without changes in their amplitudes. The effect ofATPappears to be mediated by presynaptic P2X2Rs because ATP>S and 2MeS-ATP mimics, while the P2XR antagonist PPADS blocks, the observed enhancement of the frequency of GABA currents. There were significant differences between two SCN regions in that the effect of ATP was higher in the ventrolateral subdivision, which is densely innervated from outside the SCN. Little evidence was found for the presence of P2XR channels in somata of SCN neurons as P2X2R immunoreactivity colocalized with synapsin and ATP-induced current was observed in only 7% of cells. In fura-2 AM-loaded slices, BzATP as well asADPstimulated intracellular Ca2+ increase, indicating that the SCN cells express functional P2X7 and P2Y receptors. Our data suggest that ATP activates presynaptic P2X2Rs to regulate inhibitory synaptic transmission within the SCN and that this effect varies between regions.
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