• calcium;
  • circadian rhythm;
  • dendrite;
  • G-protein;
  • rat;
  • synaptic transmission


Many postsynaptic neurons release a retrograde transmitter that modulates presynaptic neurotransmitter release. In the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), retrograde signaling is suggested by the presence of dendritic dense-core vesicles. Whole-cell voltage-clamp recordings were made from rat SCN neurons to determine whether a retrograde messenger could modulate the activity of afferent γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)ergic inputs. The frequency and amplitude of spontaneous GABAergic currents was significantly reduced in a subpopulation of SCN neurons (eight out of 13) following a postsynaptic depolarization. Similarly, a postsynaptic depolarization significantly reduced the amplitude of evoked GABAergic currents during both day and night recordings. A postsynaptic depolarizing pulse eliminated paired-pulse inhibition of GABAergic currents consistent with a presynaptic mechanism. Muscimol-activated currents were not altered by postsynaptic depolarization, demonstrating that the activity of GABAA receptors was not altered. Depolarization-induced inhibition of the GABAergic currents was not observed when a Ca2+ chelator was included in the microelectrode. Postsynaptic depolarization significantly increased the Ca2+ concentration in both the soma and dendrites. The dendritic Ca2+ levels increased faster, to a higher concentration and decayed faster than in the soma. The depolarization-induced inhibition of the evoked GABAergic current was blocked by the G-protein uncoupling agent N-ethylmaleimide, suggesting that the retrograde messenger acts on a pertussis toxin-sensitive G-protein-coupled receptor. Because the majority of SCN neurons receive GABAergic input from neighboring cells, these results describe a retrograde signaling mechanism by which SCN neurons can modulate GABAergic synaptic input.