Circadian and social cues regulate ion channel trafficking

PLoS Biol. 2009 Sep;7(9):e1000203. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1000203. Epub 2009 Sep 29.


Electric fish generate and sense electric fields for navigation and communication. These signals can be energetically costly to produce and can attract electroreceptive predators. To minimize costs, some nocturnally active electric fish rapidly boost the power of their signals only at times of high social activity, either as night approaches or in response to social encounters. Here we show that the gymnotiform electric fish Sternopygus macrurus rapidly boosts signal amplitude by 40% at night and during social encounters. S. macrurus increases signal magnitude through the rapid and selective trafficking of voltage-gated sodium channels into the excitable membranes of its electrogenic cells, a process under the control of pituitary peptide hormones and intracellular second-messenger pathways. S. macrurus thus maintains a circadian rhythm in signal amplitude and adapts within minutes to environmental events by increasing signal amplitude through the rapid trafficking of ion channels, a process that directly modifies an ongoing behavior in real time.

Publication types

  • Comment
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / drug effects
  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Circadian Rhythm / drug effects
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Cnidarian Venoms / pharmacology
  • Cues*
  • Cyclic AMP / metabolism
  • Cyclic AMP-Dependent Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Electric Organ / cytology
  • Electric Organ / drug effects
  • Electric Organ / physiology
  • Gymnotiformes / physiology*
  • Ion Channel Gating / drug effects
  • Ion Channel Gating / physiology*
  • Ion Channels / metabolism*
  • Melanocortins / pharmacology
  • Models, Biological
  • Peptides / pharmacology
  • Potassium Channels, Inwardly Rectifying / metabolism
  • Protein Transport / drug effects
  • Social Behavior*
  • Sodium / metabolism
  • Transport Vesicles / drug effects
  • Transport Vesicles / metabolism


  • Cnidarian Venoms
  • Ion Channels
  • Melanocortins
  • Peptides
  • Potassium Channels, Inwardly Rectifying
  • toxin II (Anemonia sulcata)
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone
  • Sodium
  • Cyclic AMP
  • Cyclic AMP-Dependent Protein Kinases