Research from the University of Kent has found that TRESK (TWIK-related spinal cord K+ channel), a calcium regulated two-pore potassium channel, regulates the brain’s central circadian clock to differentiate behavior between day and night.

The suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN; the brain’s circadian clock) depends on multiple mechanisms to ensure rhythmic electrical activity that varies between day and night. This new research clarifies that TRESK plays a crucial role in this system. The mechanism was previously unknown.

The study, led by Gurprit Lall, PhD, at the Medway School of Pharmacy and colleagues at the University of Oxford, investigated the role of TRESK in the brain’s central circadian clock and found that when TRESK levels were reduced the biological rhythm was disrupted.

When the absence of TRESK was explored in the study, the clock lost its day and night association and did not sense light. This further identifies that not only does TRESK affect cell membrane activity, it affects response behavior and the clock’s communication to the body.

Lall says in a release, “This research has shown that TRESK is key to SCN function, regulating multiple aspects of SCN neurophysiology. TRESK provides a clear delineation of light responses between the day and night. It maintains the SCN in the appropriate state for nocturnal light-induced behavioral changes. These findings are significant to future research into how the circadian clock responds to environmental stimuli.”

The study is published in Nature Communications.

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