The suprachiasmatic nucleus: a 25-year retrospective

J Biol Rhythms. 1998 Apr;13(2):100-12. doi: 10.1177/074873098128999952.


The suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) of the anterior hypothalamus contain the master circadian pacemaker in mammals. On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the discovery of the SCN as the circadian clock, Charles A. Czeisler and Steven M. Reppert organized a meeting to review milestones and recent developments in the study of the SCN. The discovery that the SCN contain tissue necessary for generation of circadian rhythmicity was established by lesion studies published in 1972. The second phase of study demonstrated unequivocally that the SCN contain an autonomous circadian pacemaker. The principal studies in this period showed the presence of metabolic and electrical activity rhythms in the SCN in vivo and progressed to studies showing that the SCN maintain rhythmicity in vitro, demonstrating that the transplanted SCN can restore circadian function following destruction of the host SCN and ultimately showing that single SCN "clock cells" exhibit independent rhythms in firing rate. The third phase of study, aimed at identifying the biochemical and molecular mechanisms responsible for rhythmicity within the SCN, has begun with the identification of circadian mutants (tau mutant hamsters and Clock mutant mice) and the isolation of the Clock gene. This report traces the important steps forward in our understanding of the suprachiasmatic circadian clock by recounting the information presented at the SCN Silver Anniversary Celebration.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Cricetinae / genetics
  • Cricetinae / physiology
  • Mice / genetics
  • Mutation / physiology
  • Rodentia / physiology
  • Suprachiasmatic Nucleus / physiology*