The orexinergic system delivers excitation for multiple brain centers to facilitate behavioral arousal, with its malfunction resulting in narcolepsy, somnolence, and notably, visual hallucinations. Since the circadian clock underlies the daily arousal, a timed coordination is expected between the orexin system and its target subcortical visual system, including the superior colliculus (SC). Here, we use a combination of electrophysiological, immunohistochemical, and molecular approaches across 24 h, together with the neuronal tract-tracing methods to investigate the daily coordination between the orexin system and the rodent SC. Higher orexinergic input was found to occur nocturnally in the superficial layers of the SC, in time for nocturnal silencing of spontaneous firing in this visual brain area. We identify autonomous daily and circadian expression of clock genes in the SC, which may underlie these day–night changes. Additionally, we establish the lateral hypothalamic origin of the orexin innervation to the SC and that the SC neurons robustly respond to orexin A via OX2 receptor in both excitatory and GABAA receptor-dependent inhibitory manners. Together, our evidence elucidates the combination of intrinsic and extrinsic clock mechanisms that shape the daily function of the visual layers of the SC.
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