Neurons identified by NeuN/Fox-3 immunoreactivity have a novel distribution in the hamster and mouse suprachiasmatic nucleus

Brain Res. 2011 Nov 3:1421:44-51. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2011.09.015. Epub 2011 Sep 17.


The suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) has several structural characteristics and cell phenotypes shared across species. Here, we describe a novel feature of SCN anatomy that is seen in both hamster and mouse. Frozen sections through the SCN were obtained from fixed brains and stained for the presence of immunoreactivity to neuronal nuclear protein (NeuN-IR) using a mouse monoclonal antibody which is known to exclusively identify neurons. NeuN-IR did not identify all SCN neurons as medial NeuN-IR neurons were generally not present. In the hamster, NeuN-IR cells are present rostrally, scattered in the dorsal half of the nucleus. More caudally, the NeuN-IR cells are largely, but not exclusively, scattered inside the lateral and dorsolateral border. At mid- to mid-caudal SCN levels, a dense group of NeuN-IR cells extends from the dorsolateral border ventromedially to encompass the central subnucleus of the SCN (SCNce). The pattern is similar in the mouse SCN. NeuN-IR does not co-localize with either cholecystokinin- or vasoactive intestinal polypeptide, but does with vasopressin-IR in the caudal SCN. In the hamster SCNce, numerous cells contain both calbindin- and NeuN-IR. The distribution of NeuN-IR cells in the SCN is unique, especially with regard to its generally lateral location through the length of the nucleus. The distribution of NeuN-IR cells is not consistent with most schemas representing SCN organization or with terminology referring to its widely accepted subdivisions. NeuN has recently been identified as Fox-3 protein. Its function in the SCN is not known, nor is it known why a large proportion of SCN cells do not contain NeuN-IR.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cricetinae
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / analysis
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Nuclear Proteins / analysis
  • Nuclear Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Suprachiasmatic Nucleus / cytology*
  • Suprachiasmatic Nucleus / metabolism


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • NeuN protein, mouse
  • Nuclear Proteins