Animals, plants, and bacteria all display behavioral patterns that coincide with Earth’s light and dark cycles. These oscillating behaviors are the manifestation of the molecular circadian clock, a highly conserved network that maintains a near 24-hour rhythm even in the absence of light. In mammals, light signals are transmitted via the superchiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in the hypothalamus to synchronize peripheral clocks and coordinate physiological functions with the organism’s active period. This collection of reviews, curated by Amita Sehgal, considers the critical role of the circadian system in human health. Technology, work, and social obligations can disrupt optimal sleep and wake schedules, leaving humans vulnerable to diseases affecting the heart, brain, metabolism, and more. Sleep disorders as well as normal variations in human chronotype may exacerbate circadian disruptions, with profound consequences. These reviews emphasize that ongoing efforts to understand the complexities of human circadian rhythm will be essential for developing chronotherapies and other circadian-based interventions.
Circadian rhythm evolved to allow organisms to coordinate intrinsic physiological functions in anticipation of recurring environmental changes. The importance of this coordination is exemplified by the tight temporal control of cardiac metabolism. Levels of metabolites, metabolic flux, and response to nutrients all oscillate in a time-of-day–dependent fashion. While these rhythms are affected by oscillatory behavior (feeding/fasting, wake/sleep) and neurohormonal changes, recent data have unequivocally demonstrated an intrinsic circadian regulation at the tissue and cellular level. The circadian clock — through a network of a core clock, slave clock, and effectors — exerts intricate temporal control of cardiac metabolism, which is also integrated with environmental cues. The combined anticipation and adaptability that the circadian clock enables provide maximum advantage to cardiac function. Disruption of the circadian rhythm, or dyssynchrony, leads to cardiometabolic disorders seen not only in shift workers but in most individuals in modern society. In this Review, we describe current findings on rhythmic cardiac metabolism and discuss the intricate regulation of circadian rhythm and the consequences of rhythm disruption. An in-depth understanding of the circadian biology in cardiac metabolism is critical in translating preclinical findings from nocturnal-animal models as well as in developing novel chronotherapeutic strategies.
Lilei Zhang, Mukesh K. Jain
Circadian rhythms evolved through adaptation to daily light/dark changes in the environment; they are believed to be regulated by the core circadian clock interlocking feedback loop. Recent studies indicate that each core component executes general and specific functions in metabolism. Here, we review the current understanding of the role of these core circadian clock genes in the regulation of metabolism using various genetically modified animal models. Additionally, emerging evidence shows that exposure to environmental stimuli, such as artificial light, unbalanced diet, mistimed eating, and exercise, remodels the circadian physiological processes and causes metabolic disorders. This Review summarizes the reciprocal regulation between the circadian clock and metabolism, highlights remaining gaps in knowledge about the regulation of circadian rhythms and metabolism, and examines potential applications to human health and disease.
Dongyin Guan, Mitchell A. Lazar
Circadian rhythms, present in most phyla across life, are biological oscillations occurring on a daily cycle. Since the discovery of their molecular foundations in model organisms, many inputs that modify this tightly controlled system in humans have been identified. Polygenic variations and environmental factors influence each person’s circadian rhythm, contributing to the trait known as chronotype, which manifests as the degree of morning or evening preference in an individual. Despite normal variation in chronotype, much of society operates on a “one size fits all” schedule that can be difficult to adjust to, especially for certain individuals whose endogenous circadian phase is extremely advanced or delayed. This is a public health concern, as phase misalignment in humans is associated with a number of adverse health outcomes. Additionally, modern technology (such as electric lights and computer, tablet, and phone screens that emit blue light) and lifestyles (such as shift or irregular work schedules) are disrupting circadian consistency in an increasing number of people. Though medical and lifestyle interventions can alleviate some of these issues, growing research on endogenous circadian variability and sensitivity suggests that broader social changes may be necessary to minimize the impact of circadian misalignment on health.
Nicholas W. Gentry, Liza H. Ashbrook, Ying-Hui Fu, Louis J. Ptáček