Role of Na⁺/Ca²⁺ exchanger in Ca²⁺ homeostasis in rat suprachiasmatic nucleus neurons

J Neurophysiol. 2015 Apr 1;113(7):2114-26. doi: 10.1152/jn.00404.2014. Epub 2015 Jan 7.


Intracellular Ca(2+) is critical to the central clock of the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). However, the role of Na(+)/Ca(2+) exchanger (NCX) in intracellular Ca(2+) concentration ([Ca(2+)]i) homeostasis in the SCN is unknown. Here we show that NCX is an important mechanism for somatic Ca(2+) clearance in SCN neurons. In control conditions Na(+)-free solution lowered [Ca(2+)]i by inhibiting TTX-sensitive as well as nimodipine-sensitive Ca(2+) influx. With use of the Na(+) ionophore monensin to raise intracellular Na(+) concentration ([Na(+)]i), Na(+)-free solution provoked rapid Ca(2+) uptake via reverse NCX. The peak amplitude of 0 Na(+)-induced [Ca(2+)]i increase was larger during the day than at night, with no difference between dorsal and ventral SCN neurons. Ca(2+) extrusion via forward NCX was studied by determining the effect of Na(+) removal on Ca(2+) clearance after high-K(+)-induced Ca(2+) loads. The clearance of Ca(2+) proceeded with two exponential decay phases, with the fast decay having total signal amplitude of ∼85% and a time constant of ∼7 s. Na(+)-free solution slowed the fast decay rate threefold, whereas mitochondrial protonophore prolonged mostly the slow decay. In contrast, blockade of plasmalemmal and sarco(endo)plasmic reticulum Ca(2+) pumps had little effect on the kinetics of Ca(2+) clearance. RT-PCR indicated the expression of NCX1 and NCX2 mRNAs. Immunohistochemical staining showed the presence of NCX1 immunoreactivity in the whole SCN but restricted distribution of NCX2 immunoreactivity in the ventrolateral SCN. Together our results demonstrate an important role of NCX, most likely NCX1, as well as mitochondrial Ca(2+) uptake in clearing somatic Ca(2+) after depolarization-induced Ca(2+) influx in SCN neurons.

Keywords: Ca2+ homeostasis; Ca2+ imaging; Na+/Ca2+ exchanger; circadian rhythm; suprachiasmatic nucleus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / physiology*
  • Homeostasis / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sodium-Calcium Exchanger / physiology*
  • Suprachiasmatic Nucleus / physiology*


  • Sodium-Calcium Exchanger
  • Calcium