Deciphering clock cell network morphology within the biological master clock, suprachiasmatic nucleus: From the perspective of circadian wave dynamics

Hyun Kim, Cheolhong Min, Byeongha Jeong, Kyoung J. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The biological master clock, suprachiasmatic nucleus (of rat and mouse), is composed of ∼10,000 clock cells which are heterogeneous with respect to their circadian periods. Despite this inhomogeneity, an intact SCN maintains a very good degree of circadian phase (time) coherence which is vital for sustaining various circadian rhythmic activities, and it is supposedly achieved by not just one but a few different cell-to-cell coupling mechanisms, among which action potential (AP)-mediated connectivity is known to be essential. But, due to technical difficulties and limitations in experiments, so far very little information is available about the morphology of the connectivity at a cellular scale. Building upon this limited amount of information, here we exhaustively and systematically explore a large pool (∼25,000) of various network morphologies to come up with some plausible network features of SCN networks. All candidates under consideration reflect an experimentally obtained 'indegree distribution' as well as a 'physical range distribution of afferent clock cells.' Then, importantly, with a set of multitude criteria based on the properties of SCN circadian phase waves in extrinsically perturbed as well as in their natural states, we select out appropriate model networks: Some important measures are, 1) level of phase dispersal and direction of wave propagation, 2) phase-resetting ability of the model networks subject to external circadian forcing, and 3) decay rate of perturbation induced "phase-singularities."The successful, realistic networks have several common features: 1) "indegree"and "outdegree"should have a positive correlation; 2) the cells in the SCN ventrolateral region (core) have a much larger total degree than that of the dorsal medial region (shell); 3) The number of intra-core edges is about 7.5 times that of intra-shell edges; and 4) the distance probability density function for the afferent connections fits well to a beta function. We believe that these newly identified network features would be a useful guide for future explorations on the very much unknown AP-mediated clock cell connectome within the SCN.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1010213
JournalPLoS Computational Biology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Jun

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Modelling and Simulation
  • Ecology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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