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The Cader lab has discovered that TRESK is a key regulator of nocturnal suprachiasmatic nucleus dynamics and light adaptive responses. Their research is published in Nature Communications today.

Our lives are governed by the day-night, 24-hour cycle. We all have a master clock – the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) to align our physiology and behaviour to this cycle. Proper functioning of the SCN has been shown to be important for a healthy life and for healthy ageing. Conversely disruption of the master clock has been implicated in a wide range of disorders from dementia to cancer.

One of the most important signals to the master clock is the light environment, which is transmitted through our eyes to the SCN. When a light signal is received by this nucleus, this results in changes in molecular rhythms and neuronal firing patterns of the SCN. In this way the SCN is reset to align with a new light-dark cycle. This for example might occur as the days lengthen and shorten over the year with the changing seasons or when travelling across time zones.

The Cader lab have been working on an ion channel called TRESK as an important regulator of nerve excitability. Their previous work has shown that TRESK is important in pain sensation and has a role in migraine. Their recent studies have now revealed that TRESK also regulates nerve excitability in the master clock.

Without TRESK in the SCN, the ability to adapt to a light signal is significantly compromised and SCN neurons are hyper-excitable. This research highlights the importance of TRESK in how the master clock functions and responds to environmental signals. The implications of these novel findings on conditions such as migraine where patients show light sensitivity will be explored in future studies.