GIRK channels mediate the nonphotic effects of exogenous melatonin

Academic Article


  • Melatonin supplementation has been used as a therapeutic agent for several diseases, yet little is known about the underlying mechanisms by which melatonin synchronizes circadian rhythms. G-protein signaling plays a large role in melatonin-induced phase shifts of locomotor behavior and melatonin receptors activate G-protein-coupled inwardly rectifying potassium (GIRK) channels in Xenopus oocytes. The present study tested the hypothesis that melatonin influences circadian phase and electrical activity within the central clock in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) through GIRK channel activation. Unlike wild-type littermates, GIRK2 knock-out (KO) mice failed to phase advance wheel-running behavior in response to 3 d subcutaneous injections of melatonin in the late day. Moreover, in vitro phase resetting of the SCN circadian clock by melatonin was blocked by coadministration of a GIRK channel antagonist tertiapin-q (TPQ). Loose-patch electrophysiological recordings of SCN neurons revealed a significant reduction in the average action potential rate in response to melatonin. This effect was lost in SCN slices treated with TPQ and SCN slices from GIRK2 KO mice. The melatonin-induced suppression of firing rate corresponded with an increased inward current that was blocked by TPQ. Finally, application of ramelteon, a potent melatonin receptor agonist, significantly decreased firing rate and increased inward current within SCN neurons in a GIRKdependent manner. These results are the first to show that GIRK channels are necessary for the effects of melatonin and ramelteon within the SCN. This study suggests that GIRK channels may be an alternative therapeutic target for diseases with evidence of circadian disruption, including aberrant melatonin signaling.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Hablitz LM; Molzof HE; Abrahamsson XE; Cooper JM; Prosser RA; Gamble XL
  • Start Page

  • 14957
  • End Page

  • 14965
  • Volume

  • 35
  • Issue

  • 45