Individual neurons in the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) contain an intracellular molecular clock and use intercellular signaling to synchronize their timekeeping activities so that the SCN can coordinate brain physiology and behavior. The neuropeptide vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP) and its VPAC 2 receptor form a key component of intercellular signaling systems in the SCN and critically control cellular coupling. Targeted mutations in either the intracellular clock or intercellular neuropeptide signaling mechanisms, such as VIP-VPAC 2 signaling, can lead to desynchronization of SCN neuronal clocks and loss of behavioral rhythms. An important goal in chronobiology is to develop interventions to correct deficiencies in circadian timekeeping. Here we show that extended exposure to constant light promotes synchrony among SCN clock cells and the expression of ∼24 h rhythms in behavior in mice in which intercellular signaling is disrupted through loss of VIP-VPAC 2 signaling. This study highlights the importance of SCN synchrony for the expression of rhythms in behavior and reveals how non-invasive manipulations in the external environment can be used to overcome neurochemical communication deficits in this important brain system.
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