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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

A novel site of adult doublecortin expression: neuropeptide neurons within the suprachiasmatic nucleus circadian clock

Darren Geoghegan and David A Carter*

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School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff, CF10 3US, UK

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Citation and License

BMC Neuroscience 2008, 9:2  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-9-2

Published: 4 January 2008



The mammalian suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) is composed of heterogeneous sub-groups of neurons that are organized into a neural system for the control of circadian physiology and behaviour. Molecular circadian 'clocks' are not an exclusive property of SCN neurons but the unique role of the SCN as a central integrative pacemaker is associated with specialized aspects of neuronal organization. Current studies are aimed at identifying the functional components of this hypothalamic integrative centre.


In the present study we have identified and characterized a quite novel aspect of SCN neurobiology, doublecortin (DCX) protein expression within a defined group of adult rat SCN neurons. Adult neuronal DCX expression is surprising because this microtubule-associated protein (MAP) is generally a developmentally restricted component of immature, migrating neurons. We have also demonstrated for the first time that the SCN as a whole exhibits low expression of the neuronal differentiation marker NeuN. However, DCX is co-localized with NeuN in the ventral SCN, and also with neuropeptides; DCX is extensively co-localized with GRP and partially co-localized with VIP.


The highly selective expression of DCX in the adult SCN compared with other hypothalamic and thalamic nuclei shows that this MAP is somewhat uniquely required in certain SCN neurons, perhaps contributing to a specific functional property of the brain's circadian clock nucleus. DCX may maintain a capacity for dynamic cellular plasticity that subserves daily alterations in SCN neuronal signalling.