Format of Original
Journal of Endocrinology
Original Item ID
DOI: 10.1530/JOE-16-0054; PMID: 27154335; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4938744
The suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the anterior hypothalamus is the master circadian clock that coordinates daily rhythms in behavior and physiology in mammals. Like other hypothalamic nuclei, the SCN displays an impressive array of distinct cell types characterized by differences in neurotransmitter and neuropeptide expression. Individual SCN neurons and glia are able to display self-sustained circadian rhythms in cellular function that are regulated at the molecular level by a 24h transcriptional–translational feedback loop. Remarkably, SCN cells are able to harmonize with one another to sustain coherent rhythms at the tissue level. Mechanisms of cellular communication in the SCN network are not completely understood, but recent progress has provided insight into the functional roles of several SCN signaling factors. This review discusses SCN organization, how intercellular communication is critical for maintaining network function, and the signaling mechanisms that play a role in this process. Despite recent progress, our understanding of SCN circuitry and coupling is far from complete. Further work is needed to map SCN circuitry fully and define the signaling mechanisms that allow for collective timekeeping in the SCN network.