The discovery of peripheral intracellular clocks revealed circadian oscillations of clock genes and their targets in all cell types, including those in the lung, sparking exploration of clocks in lung disease pathophysiology. While the focus has been on the role of these clocks in adult airway diseases, clock biology is also likely to be important in perinatal lung development, where it has received far less attention. Historically, fetal circadian rhythms have been considered irrelevant owing to lack of external light exposure, but more recent insights into peripheral clock biology raise questions of clock emergence, its concordance with tissue-specific structure/function, the interdependence of clock synchrony and functionality in perinatal lung development, and the possibility of lung clocks in priming the fetus for postnatal life. Understanding the perinatal molecular clock may unravel mechanistic targets for chronic airway disease across the lifespan. With current research providing more questions than answers, it is about time to investigate clocks in the developing lung.
Colleen M. Bartman, Aleksey Matveyenko, Y.S. Prakash