Diurnal rhythms in neurexins transcripts and inhibitory/excitatory synapse scaffold proteins in the biological clock.
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The neurexin genes (NRXN1/2/3) encode two families ( and ) of highly polymorphic presynaptic proteins that are involved in excitatory/inhibitory synaptic balance. Recent studies indicate that neuronal activation and memory formation affect NRXN1/2/3 expression and alternative splicing at splice sites 3 and 4 (SS#3/SS#4). Neurons in the biological clock residing in the suprachiasmatic nuclei of the hypothalamus (SCN) act as self-sustained oscillators, generating rhythms in gene expression and electrical activity, to entrain circadian bodily rhythms to the 24 hours day/night cycles. Cell autonomous oscillations in NRXN1/2/3 expression and SS#3/SS#4 exons splicing and their links to rhythms in excitatory/inhibitory synaptic balance in the circadian clock were explored. NRXN1/2/3 expression and SS#3/SS#4 splicing, levels of neurexin-2 and the synaptic scaffolding proteins PSD-95 and gephyrin (representing excitatory and inhibitory synapses, respectively) were studied in mRNA and protein extracts obtained from SCN of C3H/J mice at different times of the 24 hours day/night cycle. Further studies explored the circadian oscillations in these components and causality relationships in immortalized rat SCN2.2 cells. Diurnal rhythms in mNRXN1 and mNRXN2 transcription, SS#3/SS#4 exon-inclusion and PSD-95 gephyrin and neurexin-2 levels were found in the SCN in vivo. No such rhythms were found with mNRXN3. SCN2.2 cells also exhibited autonomous circadian rhythms in rNRXN1/2 expression SS#3/SS#4 exon inclusion and PSD-95, gephyrin and neurexin-2 levels. rNRXN3 and rNRXN1/2 were not expressed. Causal relationships were demonstrated, by use of specific siRNAs, between rNRXN2 SS#3 exon included transcripts and gephyrin levels in the SCN2.2 cells. These results show for the first time dynamic, cell autonomous, diurnal rhythms in expression and splicing of NRXN1/2 and subsequent effects on the expression of neurexin-2 and postsynaptic scaffolding proteins in SCN across the 24-h cycle. NRXNs gene transcripts may have a role in coupling the circadian clock to diurnal rhythms in excitatory/inhibitory synaptic balance.