Circadian oscillations of neuropeptide expression in the human biological clock

J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2003 Nov;189(11):823-31. doi: 10.1007/s00359-003-0458-3. Epub 2003 Sep 12.


The mammalian suprachiasmatic nucleus is the principal component of a neural timing system implicated in the temporal organization of circadian and seasonal processes. The present study was performed to analyze the circadian profiles of two major neuropeptidergic cell groups in the human suprachiasmatic nucleus. To that end the brains of 40 human subjects collected at autopsy were investigated. The populations of arginine vasopressin- and vasoactive intestinal polypeptide-expressing neurons, located in the shell and core of the suprachiasmatic nucleus, respectively, showed marked circadian rhythms with an asymmetrical, bimodal waveform. Time series analysis revealed that these circadian cycles in neuronal activity could be described by a composite model consisting of a nonlinear periodic function, with mono- and diphasic cycles. The findings suggest that the 24-h biosynthesis of neuropeptides in the human suprachiasmatic nucleus, being part of the neural output pathway of the clock, is driven by a complex pacemaker system consisting of coupled nonlinear oscillators, in accordance with a multioscillator model of circadian timekeeping.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biological Clocks / physiology*
  • Child
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropeptides / biosynthesis*
  • Neuropeptides / genetics
  • Nonlinear Dynamics
  • Suprachiasmatic Nucleus / metabolism
  • Suprachiasmatic Nucleus / pathology


  • Neuropeptides