Astrocytes are active partners in neural information processing [1, 2]. However, the roles of astrocytes in regulating behavior remain unclear [3, 4]. Because astrocytes have persistent circadian clock gene expression and ATP release in vitro [5-8], we hypothesized that they regulate daily rhythms in neurons and behavior. Here, we demonstrated that daily rhythms in astrocytes within the mammalian master circadian pacemaker, the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), determine the period of wheel-running activity. Ablating the essential clock gene Bmal1 specifically in SCN astrocytes lengthened the circadian period of clock gene expression in the SCN and in locomotor behavior. Similarly, excision of the short-period CK1ε tau mutation specifically from SCN astrocytes resulted in lengthened rhythms in the SCN and behavior. These results indicate that astrocytes within the SCN communicate to neurons to determine circadian rhythms in physiology and in rest activity.
Keywords: Aldh1l1; Bmal1; GABA; GFAP; Per2; SCN; astroglia; casein kinase 1; circadian oscillator; glia.
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