Circadian disruption by short light exposure and a high energy diet impairs glucose tolerance and increases cardiac fibrosis in Psammomys obesus

Nankivell, V.A., Tan, J.T.M., Wilsdon, L.A. et al. Circadian disruption by short light exposure and a high energy diet impairs glucose tolerance and increases cardiac fibrosis in Psammomys obesusSci Rep 11, 9673 (2021).


Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) increases cardiac inflammation which promotes the development of cardiac fibrosis. We sought to determine the impact of circadian disruption on the induction of hyperglycaemia, inflammation and cardiac fibrosis. Methods: Psammomys obesus (P. obesus) were exposed to neutral (12 h light:12 h dark) or short (5 h light:19 h dark) photoperiods and fed a low energy (LE) or high energy (HE) diet for 8 or 20 weeks. To determine daily rhythmicity, P. obesus were euthanised at 2, 8, 14, and 20 h after ‘lights on’. Results: P. obesus exposed to a short photoperiod for 8 and 20 weeks had impaired glucose tolerance following oral glucose tolerance testing, compared to a neutral photoperiod exposure. This occurred with both LE and HE diets but was more pronounced with the HE diet. Short photoperiod exposure also increased myocardial perivascular fibrosis after 20 weeks on LE (51%, P < 0.05) and HE (44%, P < 0.05) diets, when compared to groups with neutral photoperiod exposure. Short photoperiod exposure caused elevations in mRNA levels of hypertrophy gene Nppa (atrial natriuretic peptide) and hypertrophy transcription factors Gata4 and Mef2c in myocardial tissue after 8 weeks. Conclusion: Exposure to a short photoperiod causes impaired glucose tolerance in P. obesus that is exacerbated with HE diet and is accompanied by an induction in myocardial perivascular fibrosis.


In this study the authors used the Psammomys obesus model of T2DM to simulate circadian disruption, similar to a shift worker, combined with a HE diet to assess the onset of features of T2DM and myocardial pathophysiology. The finding of this study provide insights into the potential adverse effects on the heart that may be experienced by shift workers due to T2DM that is induced by circadian dysfunction and amplified by a HE diet.

According to the authors, their studies may provide guidance for the prevention of diabetes-related cardiac fibrosis in shift workers in which a healthy diet and reduced time periods of circadian disruption should be promoted as a strategy for preventing cardiac dysfunction.

The authors remind us that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide1. Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM) is regarded as pan epidemic, with more than 640 million people predicted to have T2DM by 20402. It is well-established that there is a link between cardiovascular disease (CVD) and T2DM with them frequently occurring simultaneously along with an associated elevated risk of adverse outcomes1,3,4. Specifically, people with diabetes or pre-diabetes are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than their non-diabetic counterparts1,3,4.

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