Circadian clocks: Body parts respond to day and night independently from brain, studies show

Body clocks concept (stock image).
Credit: © vectorfusionart / Adobe Stock

 

Date:May 30, 2019

Source: University of California – Irvine

Summary: Researchers have suspected that the body’s various circadian clocks can operate independently from the central clock in the hypothalamus of the brain. Now, they have found a way to test that theory.

Can your liver sense when you’re staring at a television screen or cellphone late at night? Apparently so, and when such activity is detected, the organ can throw your circadian rhythms out of whack, leaving you more susceptible to health problems.

That’s one of the takeaways from two new studies by University of California, Irvine scientists working in collaboration with the Institute for Research in Biomedicine in Barcelona, Spain.

The studies, published today in the journal Cell, used specially bred mice to analyze the network of internal clocks that regulate metabolism. Although researchers had suspected that the body’s various circadian clocks could operate independently from the central clock in the hypothalamus of the brain, there was previously no way to test the theory, said Paolo Sassone-Corsi, director of UCI’s Center for Epigenetics and Metabolism and senior author of one of the studies.

To overcome that obstacle, scientists figured out how to disable the entire circadian system of the mice, then jump-start individual clocks. For the experiments reported in the Cell papers, they activated clocks inside the liver or skin.

“The results were quite surprising,” said Sassone-Corsi, Donald Bren Professor of Biological Chemistry. “No one realized that the liver or skin could be so directly affected by light.”

For example, despite the shutdown of all other body clocks, including the central brain clock, the liver knew what time it was, responded to light changes as day shifted to night and maintained critical functions, such as preparing to digest food at mealtime and converting glucose to energy.

Somehow, the liver’s circadian clock was able to detect light, presumably via signals from other organs. Only when the mice were subjected to constant darkness did the liver’s clock stop functioning.

Because of modern lifestyles, it’s easy for people’s circadian systems to get confused, he said. In turn, that can lead to depression, allergies, premature aging, cancer and other health problems.

Read more here: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/05/190530141443.htm

Journal References:

  1. Patrick-Simon Welz, Valentina M. Zinna, Aikaterini Symeonidi, Kevin B. Koronowski, Kenichiro Kinouchi, Jacob G. Smith, Inés Marín Guillén, Andrés Castellanos, Georgiana Crainiciuc, Neus Prats, Juan Martín Caballero, Andrés Hidalgo, Paolo Sassone-Corsi, Salvador Aznar Benitah. BMAL1-Driven Tissue Clocks Respond Independently to Light to Maintain HomeostasisCell, 2019; 177 (6): 1436 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2019.05.009
  2. Kevin B. Koronowski, Kenichiro Kinouchi, Patrick-Simon Welz, Jacob G. Smith, Valentina M. Zinna, Jiejun Shi, Muntaha Samad, Siwei Chen, Christophe N. Magnan, Jason M. Kinchen, Wei Li, Pierre Baldi, Salvador Aznar Benitah, Paolo Sassone-Corsi. Defining the Independence of the Liver Circadian ClockCell, 2019; 177 (6): 1448 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2019.04.025