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1.  Genome-Wide and Phase-Specific DNA-Binding Rhythms of BMAL1 Control Circadian Output Functions in Mouse Liver 
PLoS Biology  2011;9(2):e1000595.
Temporal mapping during a circadian day of binding sites for the BMAL1 transcription factor in mouse liver reveals genome-wide daily rhythms in DNA binding and uncovers output functions that are controlled by the circadian oscillator.
The mammalian circadian clock uses interlocked negative feedback loops in which the heterodimeric basic helix-loop-helix transcription factor BMAL1/CLOCK is a master regulator. While there is prominent control of liver functions by the circadian clock, the detailed links between circadian regulators and downstream targets are poorly known. Using chromatin immunoprecipitation combined with deep sequencing we obtained a time-resolved and genome-wide map of BMAL1 binding in mouse liver, which allowed us to identify over 2,000 binding sites, with peak binding narrowly centered around Zeitgeber time 6. Annotation of BMAL1 targets confirms carbohydrate and lipid metabolism as the major output of the circadian clock in mouse liver. Moreover, transcription regulators are largely overrepresented, several of which also exhibit circadian activity. Genes of the core circadian oscillator stand out as strongly bound, often at promoter and distal sites. Genomic sequence analysis of the sites identified E-boxes and tandem E1-E2 consensus elements. Electromobility shift assays showed that E1-E2 sites are bound by a dimer of BMAL1/CLOCK heterodimers with a spacing-dependent cooperative interaction, a finding that was further validated in transactivation assays. BMAL1 target genes showed cyclic mRNA expression profiles with a phase distribution centered at Zeitgeber time 10. Importantly, sites with E1-E2 elements showed tighter phases both in binding and mRNA accumulation. Finally, analyzing the temporal profiles of BMAL1 binding, precursor mRNA and mature mRNA levels showed how transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation contribute differentially to circadian expression phase. Together, our analysis of a dynamic protein-DNA interactome uncovered how genes of the core circadian oscillator crosstalk and drive phase-specific circadian output programs in a complex tissue.
Author Summary
The circadian clock is a timing system that allows organisms to keep behavioral, physiological, and cellular rhythms in resonance with daily environmental cycles. In mammals, such clocks use transcriptional regulatory loops in which the heterodimeric transcription factor BMAL1/CLOCK plays a central role. While defects in circadian clock function have been associated with diabetes, obesity, and cancer, the molecular links between the circadian clock and such output pathways are poorly characterized. Here, we mapped DNA-binding sites of BMAL1 in mouse liver during one circadian cycle. Our temporal analysis revealed widespread daily rhythms in DNA binding, with maximum levels peaking at midday. In the list of candidates, core circadian genes stood out as the most strongly bound, often showing multiple binding sites. Interestingly, BMAL1 targets were highly enriched in genes involved in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism, and also in transcription factors, in particular nuclear receptors. Our results suggest that the mammalian clock uses BMAL1 to control transcriptional output programs both directly and indirectly. Additionally, the DNA specificity of BMAL1 binding revealed the importance of tandem E-box elements, which may favor strong binding and precise timing of daily gene expression. Taken together, our work confirms BMAL1's primary function as a master regulator of the core circadian oscillator, while demonstrating that it also contributes in a more distributed fashion to a variety of output programs.
doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000595
PMCID: PMC3043000  PMID: 21364973
2.  DAILY TIMED MEALS DISSOCIATE CIRCADIAN RHYTHMS IN HEPATOMA AND HEALTHY HOST LIVER 
Dividing cells, including human cancers, organize processes necessary for their duplication according to circadian time. Recent evidence has shown that disruption of central regulation of circadian rhythms can increase the rate at which a variety of cancers develop in rodents. In order to study circadian rhythms in liver tumors, we have chemically induced hepatocellular carcinoma in transgenic rats bearing a luciferase reporter gene attached to the promoter of a core circadian clock gene (Period 1). We explanted normal liver cells and hepatomas, placed them into short-term culture, and precisely measured their molecular clock function by recording light output. Results show that isolated hepatocellular carcinoma is capable of generating circadian rhythms in vitro. Temporally restricting food availability to either day or night altered the phase of the rhythms in both healthy and malignant tissue. However the hepatomas were much less sensitive to this signal resulting in dramatically different phase relationships between host and tumor tissue as a function of mealtime. These data support the conclusion that hepatoma is differentially sensitive to circadian timing signals, although it maintains the circadian organization of the non-malignant cells from which it arose. Because circadian clocks are known to modulate the sensitivity of many therapeutic cytotoxic targets, controlling mealtiming might be used to increase the efficacy of treatment. Specifically, meal and treatment schedules could be designed that take advantage of coincident times of greatest tumor sensitivity and lowest sensitivity of host tissue to damage.
doi:10.1002/ijc.21591
PMCID: PMC1464797  PMID: 16231323
Cancer; circadian rhythm; peripheral oscillator
3.  Genome-Wide Analysis of SREBP1 Activity around the Clock Reveals Its Combined Dependency on Nutrient and Circadian Signals 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(3):e1004155.
In mammals, the circadian clock allows them to anticipate and adapt physiology around the 24 hours. Conversely, metabolism and food consumption regulate the internal clock, pointing the existence of an intricate relationship between nutrient state and circadian homeostasis that is far from being understood. The Sterol Regulatory Element Binding Protein 1 (SREBP1) is a key regulator of lipid homeostasis. Hepatic SREBP1 function is influenced by the nutrient-response cycle, but also by the circadian machinery. To systematically understand how the interplay of circadian clock and nutrient-driven rhythm regulates SREBP1 activity, we evaluated the genome-wide binding of SREBP1 to its targets throughout the day in C57BL/6 mice. The recruitment of SREBP1 to the DNA showed a highly circadian behaviour, with a maximum during the fed status. However, the temporal expression of SREBP1 targets was not always synchronized with its binding pattern. In particular, different expression phases were observed for SREBP1 target genes depending on their function, suggesting the involvement of other transcription factors in their regulation. Binding sites for Hepatocyte Nuclear Factor 4 (HNF4) were specifically enriched in the close proximity of SREBP1 peaks of genes, whose expression was shifted by about 8 hours with respect to SREBP1 binding. Thus, the cross-talk between hepatic HNF4 and SREBP1 may underlie the expression timing of this subgroup of SREBP1 targets. Interestingly, the proper temporal expression profile of these genes was dramatically changed in Bmal1−/− mice upon time-restricted feeding, for which a rhythmic, but slightly delayed, binding of SREBP1 was maintained. Collectively, our results show that besides the nutrient-driven regulation of SREBP1 nuclear translocation, a second layer of modulation of SREBP1 transcriptional activity, strongly dependent from the circadian clock, exists. This system allows us to fine tune the expression timing of SREBP1 target genes, thus helping to temporally separate the different physiological processes in which these genes are involved.
Author Summary
Circadian rhythmicity is part of our innate behavior and controls many physiological processes, such as sleeping and waking, activity, neurotransmitter production and a number of metabolic pathways. In mammals, the central circadian pacemaker in the hypothalamus is entrained on a daily basis by environmental cues (i.e. light), thus setting the period length and synchronizing the rhythms of all cells in the body. In the last decades, numerous investigations have highlighted the importance of the internal timekeeping mechanism for maintenance of organism health and longevity. Indeed, the reciprocal regulation of circadian clock and metabolism is now commonly accepted, although still poorly understood at the molecular level. Our global analysis of DNA binding along the day of Sterol Regulatory Element Binding Protein 1 (SREBP1), a key regulator of lipid biosynthesis, represents the first tool to comprehensively explore how its activity is connected to circadian-driven regulatory events. We show that the regulation of SREBP1 action by nutrients relies mainly on the control of its subcellular localization, while the circadian clock influences the promoter specific activity of SREBP1 within the nucleus. Furthermore, we identify the Hepatocyte Nuclear Factor 4 (HNF4) as a putative player in the cross-talk between molecular clock and metabolic regulation.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1004155
PMCID: PMC3945117  PMID: 24603613
4.  Synergistic Interactions between the Molecular and Neuronal Circadian Networks Drive Robust Behavioral Circadian Rhythms in Drosophila melanogaster 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(4):e1004252.
Most organisms use 24-hr circadian clocks to keep temporal order and anticipate daily environmental changes. In Drosophila melanogaster CLOCK (CLK) and CYCLE (CYC) initiates the circadian system by promoting rhythmic transcription of hundreds of genes. However, it is still not clear whether high amplitude transcriptional oscillations are essential for circadian timekeeping. In order to address this issue, we generated flies in which the amplitude of CLK-driven transcription can be reduced partially (approx. 60%) or strongly (90%) without affecting the average levels of CLK-target genes. The impaired transcriptional oscillations lead to low amplitude protein oscillations that were not sufficient to drive outputs of peripheral oscillators. However, circadian rhythms in locomotor activity were resistant to partial reduction in transcriptional and protein oscillations. We found that the resilience of the brain oscillator is depending on the neuronal communication among circadian neurons in the brain. Indeed, the capacity of the brain oscillator to overcome low amplitude transcriptional oscillations depends on the action of the neuropeptide PDF and on the pdf-expressing cells having equal or higher amplitude of molecular rhythms than the rest of the circadian neuronal groups in the fly brain. Therefore, our work reveals the importance of high amplitude transcriptional oscillations for cell-autonomous circadian timekeeping. Moreover, we demonstrate that the circadian neuronal network is an essential buffering system that protects against changes in circadian transcription in the brain.
Author Summary
Circadian clocks allow organisms to predict daily environmental changes. These clocks time the sleep/wake cycles and many other physiological and cellular pathways to 24hs rhythms. The current model states that circadian clocks keep time by the use of biochemical feedback loops. These feedback loops are responsible for the generation of high amplitude oscillations in gene expression. Abolishment of circadian transcriptional oscillations has been shown to abolish circadian function. Previous studies addressing this issue utilize manipulations in which the abolishment of the transcriptional oscillations is very dramatic and involves strong up or down-regulation of circadian genes. In this study we generated fruit flies in which we diminished the amplitude of circadian oscillations in a controlled way. We found that a decrease of more than 50% in the amplitude of circadian oscillations leads to impaired function of circadian physiological outputs in the periphery but does not significantly affect circadian behavior. This suggests that the clock in the brain has a specific compensatory mechanism. Moreover, we found that flies with reduced oscillation and impaired circadian neuronal communication display aberrant circadian rhythms. These finding support the idea of network buffering mechanisms that allows the brain to produce circadian rhythms even with low amplitude molecular oscillations.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1004252
PMCID: PMC3974645  PMID: 24698952
5.  Phase Coupling of a Circadian Neuropeptide With Rest/Activity Rhythms Detected Using a Membrane-Tethered Spider Toxin 
PLoS Biology  2008;6(11):e273.
Drosophila clock neurons are self-sustaining cellular oscillators that rely on negative transcriptional feedback to keep circadian time. Proper regulation of organismal rhythms of physiology and behavior requires coordination of the oscillations of individual clock neurons within the circadian control network. Over the last decade, it has become clear that a key mechanism for intercellular communication in the circadian network is signaling between a subset of clock neurons that secrete the neuropeptide pigment dispersing factor (PDF) and clock neurons that possess its G protein-coupled receptor (PDFR). Furthermore, the specific hypothesis has been proposed that PDF-secreting clock neurons entrain the phase of organismal rhythms, and the cellular oscillations of other clock neurons, via the temporal patterning of secreted PDF signals. In order to test this hypothesis, we have devised a novel technique for altering the phase relationship between circadian transcriptional feedback oscillation and PDF secretion by using an ion channel–directed spider toxin to modify voltage-gated Na+ channel inactivation in vivo. This technique relies on the previously reported “tethered-toxin” technology for cell-autonomous modulation of ionic conductances via heterologous expression of subtype-specific peptide ion channel toxins as chimeric fusion proteins tethered to the plasma membrane with a glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI) anchor. We demonstrate for the first time, to our knowledge, the utility of the tethered-toxin technology in a transgenic animal, validating four different tethered spider toxin ion channel modifiers for use in Drosophila. Focusing on one of these toxins, we show that GPI-tethered Australian funnel-web spider toxin δ-ACTX-Hv1a inhibits Drosophila para voltage-gated Na+ channel inactivation when coexpressed in Xenopus oocytes. Transgenic expression of membrane-tethered δ-ACTX-Hv1a in vivo in the PDF-secreting subset of clock neurons induces rhythmic action potential bursts and depolarized plateau potentials. These in vitro and in vivo electrophysiological effects of membrane-tethered δ-ACTX-Hv1a are consistent with the effects of soluble δ-ACTX-Hv1a purified from venom on Na+ channel physiological and biophysical properties in cockroach neurons. Membrane-tethered δ-ACTX-Hv1a expression in the PDF-secreting subset of clock neurons induces an approximately 4-h phase advance of the rhythm of PDF accumulation in their terminals relative to both the phase of the day:night cycle and the phase of the circadian transcriptional feedback loops. As a consequence, the morning anticipatory peak of locomotor activity preceding dawn, which has been shown to be driven by the clocks of the PDF-secreting subset of clock neurons, phase advances coordinately with the phase of the PDF rhythm of the PDF-secreting clock neurons, rather than maintaining its phase relationship with the day:night cycle and circadian transcriptional feedback loops. These results (1) validate the tethered-toxin technology for cell-autonomous modulation of ion channel biophysical properties in vivo in transgenic Drosophila, (2) demonstrate that the kinetics of para Na+ channel inactivation is a key parameter for determining the phase relationship between circadian transcriptional feedback oscillation and PDF secretion, and (3) provide experimental support for the hypothesis that PDF-secreting clock neurons entrain the phase of organismal rhythms via the temporal patterning of secreted PDF signals.
Author Summary
The regulation of the daily fluctuations that characterize an organism's physiology and behavior requires coordination of the cellular oscillations of individual “clock” neurons within the circadian control network. Clock neurons that secrete a neuropeptide called pigment dispersing factor (PDF) calibrate, or entrain, both the phase of organismal rhythms and the cellular oscillations of other clock neurons. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that phase of PDF secretion rhythms entrains phase of non-PDF neurons and locomotor rhythms using the tethered- toxin technique (which affixes toxins to the cell membrane) to express ion channel–specific peptide toxins in PDF neurons. A particular toxin inhibits inactivation of the Drosophila para sodium (Na+) channel. Inhibition of Na+ channel inactivation in PDF neurons of transgenic flies induces phase advance of PDF rhythm, and correlated phase advance of lights-on anticipatory locomotor activity, suggesting that phase of morning activity is determined by phase of PDF oscillation. Therefore, voltage-gated Na+ channels of Drosophila clock neurons play a key role in determining the phase relationship between circadian transcriptional feedback oscillation and PDF secretion, and PDF-secreting clock neurons entrain the phase of organismal rhythms via the temporal patterning of secreted PDF signals.
Cell-autonomous inhibition ofDrosophila para Na+ channel inactivation using a membrane-tethered spider toxin phase shifts circadian neuropeptide output from cellular oscillation, and the phase of morning anticipatory activity is determined by this phase-shifted neuropeptide output.
doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0060273
PMCID: PMC2577701  PMID: 18986214
6.  Circadian rhythm and its role in malignancy 
Circadian rhythms are daily oscillations of multiple biological processes directed by endogenous clocks. The circadian timing system comprises peripheral oscillators located in most tissues of the body and a central pacemaker located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the hypothalamus. Circadian genes and the proteins produced by these genes constitute the molecular components of the circadian oscillator which form positive/negative feedback loops and generate circadian rhythms. The circadian regulation extends beyond clock genes to involve various clock-controlled genes (CCGs) including various cell cycle genes. Aberrant expression of circadian clock genes could have important consequences on the transactivation of downstream targets that control the cell cycle and on the ability of cells to undergo apoptosis. This may lead to genomic instability and accelerated cellular proliferation potentially promoting carcinogenesis. Different lines of evidence in mice and humans suggest that cancer may be a circadian-related disorder. The genetic or functional disruption of the molecular circadian clock has been found in various cancers including breast, ovarian, endometrial, prostate and hematological cancers. The acquisition of current data in circadian clock mechanism may help chronotherapy, which takes into consideration the biological time to improve treatments by devising new therapeutic approaches for treating circadian-related disorders, especially cancer.
doi:10.1186/1740-3391-8-3
PMCID: PMC2853504  PMID: 20353609
7.  Ras-Mediated Deregulation of the Circadian Clock in Cancer 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(5):e1004338.
Circadian rhythms are essential to the temporal regulation of molecular processes in living systems and as such to life itself. Deregulation of these rhythms leads to failures in biological processes and eventually to the manifestation of pathological phenotypes including cancer. To address the questions as to what are the elicitors of a disrupted clock in cancer, we applied a systems biology approach to correlate experimental, bioinformatics and modelling data from several cell line models for colorectal and skin cancer. We found strong and weak circadian oscillators within the same type of cancer and identified a set of genes, which allows the discrimination between the two oscillator-types. Among those genes are IFNGR2, PITX2, RFWD2, PPARγ, LOXL2, Rab6 and SPARC, all involved in cancer-related pathways. Using a bioinformatics approach, we extended the core-clock network and present its interconnection to the discriminative set of genes. Interestingly, such gene signatures link the clock to oncogenic pathways like the RAS/MAPK pathway. To investigate the potential impact of the RAS/MAPK pathway - a major driver of colorectal carcinogenesis - on the circadian clock, we used a computational model which predicted that perturbation of BMAL1-mediated transcription can generate the circadian phenotypes similar to those observed in metastatic cell lines. Using an inducible RAS expression system, we show that overexpression of RAS disrupts the circadian clock and leads to an increase of the circadian period while RAS inhibition causes a shortening of period length, as predicted by our mathematical simulations. Together, our data demonstrate that perturbations induced by a single oncogene are sufficient to deregulate the mammalian circadian clock.
Author Summary
Living systems possess an endogenous time-generating system – the circadian clock - accountable for a 24 hours oscillation in the expression of about 10% of all genes. In mammals, disruption of oscillations is associated to several diseases including cancer. In this manuscript, we address the following question: what are the elicitors of a disrupted clock in cancer? We applied a systems biology approach to correlate experimental, bioinformatics and modelling data and could thereby identify key genes which discriminate strong and weak oscillators among cancer cell lines. Most of the discriminative genes play important roles in cell cycle regulation, DNA repair, immune system and metabolism and are involved in oncogenic pathways such as the RAS/MAPK. To investigate the potential impact of the Ras oncogene in the circadian clock we generated experimental models harbouring conditionally active Ras oncogenes. We put forward a direct correlation between the perturbation of Ras oncogene and an effect in the expression of clock genes, found by means of mathematical simulations and validated experimentally. Our study shows that perturbations of a single oncogene are sufficient to deregulate the mammalian circadian clock and opens new ways in which the circadian clock can influence disease and possibly play a role in therapy.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1004338
PMCID: PMC4038477  PMID: 24875049
8.  Circadian Clock Genes as Modulators of Sensitivity to Genotoxic Stress 
Cell cycle (Georgetown, Tex.)  2005;4(7):901-907.
A broad variety of organisms display circadian rhythms (i.e., oscillations with 24-hr periodicities) in many aspects of their behavior, physiology and metabolism. These rhythms are under genetic control and are generated endogenously at the cellular level. In mammals, the core molecular mechanism of the oscillator consists of two transcriptional activators, CLOCK and BMAL1, and their transcriptional targets, CRYPTOCHROMES (CRYS) and PERIODS (PERS). The CRY and PER proteins function as negative regulators of CLOCK/BMAL1 activity, thus forming the major circadian autoregulatory feedback loop. It is believed that the circadian clock system regulates daily variations in output physiology and metabolism through periodic activation/repression of the set of clock-controlled genes that are involved in various metabolic pathways. Importantly, circadian-controlled pathways include those that determine in vivo responses to genotoxic stress. By using circadian mutant mice deficient in different components of the molecular clock system, we have established genetic models that correlate with the two opposite extremes of circadian cycle as reflected by the activity of the CLOCK/BMAL1 transactivation complex. Comparison of the in vivo responses of these mutants to the chemotherapeutic drug, cyclophosphamide (CY), has established a direct correlation between drug toxicity and the functional status of the CLOCK/BMAL1 transcriptional complex. We have also demonstrated that CLOCK/BMAL1 modulates sensitivity to drug-induced toxicity by controlling B cell responses to active CY metabolites. These results suggest that the sensitivity of cells to genotoxic stress induced by anticancer therapy may be modulated by CLOCK/BMAL1 transcriptional activity. Further elucidation of the molecular mechanisms of circadian control as well as identification of specific pharmacological modulators of CLOCK/BMAL1 activity are likely to lead to the development of new anti-cancer treatment schedules with increased therapeutic index and reduced morbidity.
PMCID: PMC3774065  PMID: 15917646
Circadian; CLOCK; BMAL1; transcription; anticancer therapy
9.  A Combined Experimental and Mathematical Approach for Molecular-based Optimization of Irinotecan Circadian Delivery 
PLoS Computational Biology  2011;7(9):e1002143.
Circadian timing largely modifies efficacy and toxicity of many anticancer drugs. Recent findings suggest that optimal circadian delivery patterns depend on the patient genetic background. We present here a combined experimental and mathematical approach for the design of chronomodulated administration schedules tailored to the patient molecular profile. As a proof of concept we optimized exposure of Caco-2 colon cancer cells to irinotecan (CPT11), a cytotoxic drug approved for the treatment of colorectal cancer. CPT11 was bioactivated into SN38 and its efflux was mediated by ATP-Binding-Cassette (ABC) transporters in Caco-2 cells. After cell synchronization with a serum shock defining Circadian Time (CT) 0, circadian rhythms with a period of 26 h 50 (SD 63 min) were observed in the mRNA expression of clock genes REV-ERBα, PER2, BMAL1, the drug target topoisomerase 1 (TOP1), the activation enzyme carboxylesterase 2 (CES2), the deactivation enzyme UDP-glucuronosyltransferase 1, polypeptide A1 (UGT1A1), and efflux transporters ABCB1, ABCC1, ABCC2 and ABCG2. DNA-bound TOP1 protein amount in presence of CPT11, a marker of the drug PD, also displayed circadian variations. A mathematical model of CPT11 molecular pharmacokinetics-pharmacodynamics (PK-PD) was designed and fitted to experimental data. It predicted that CPT11 bioactivation was the main determinant of CPT11 PD circadian rhythm. We then adopted the therapeutics strategy of maximizing efficacy in non-synchronized cells, considered as cancer cells, under a constraint of maximum toxicity in synchronized cells, representing healthy ones. We considered exposure schemes in the form of an initial concentration of CPT11 given at a particular CT, over a duration ranging from 1 to 27 h. For any dose of CPT11, optimal exposure durations varied from 3h40 to 7h10. Optimal schemes started between CT2h10 and CT2h30, a time interval corresponding to 1h30 to 1h50 before the nadir of CPT11 bioactivation rhythm in healthy cells.
Author Summary
Treatment timing within the 24-h timescale, that is, circadian (circa, about; dies, day) timing, can change by several fold the tolerability and antitumor efficacy of anticancer agents both in experimental models and in cancer patients. Chronotherapeutics aims at improving the tolerability and/or the efficacy of medications through the administration of treatments according to biological rhythms. Recent findings highlight the need of individualizing circadian delivery schedules according to the patient genetic background. In order to address this issue, we propose a combined experimental and mathematical approach in which molecular mathematical models are fitted to experimental measurements of critical biological variables in the studied experimental model or patient. Optimization procedures are then applied to the calibrated mathematical model for the design of theoretically optimal circadian delivery patterns. As a first proof of concept we focused on the anticancer drug irinotecan. A mathematical model of the drug molecular PK-PD was built and fitted to experimental data in Caco-2 colon cancer cells. Numerical algorithms were then applied to theoretically optimize the chronomodulated exposure of Caco-2 cells to irinotecan.
doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002143
PMCID: PMC3169519  PMID: 21931543
10.  Dynamic Circadian Protein–Protein Interaction Networks Predict Temporal Organization of Cellular Functions 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(3):e1003398.
Essentially all biological processes depend on protein–protein interactions (PPIs). Timing of such interactions is crucial for regulatory function. Although circadian (∼24-hour) clocks constitute fundamental cellular timing mechanisms regulating important physiological processes, PPI dynamics on this timescale are largely unknown. Here, we identified 109 novel PPIs among circadian clock proteins via a yeast-two-hybrid approach. Among them, the interaction of protein phosphatase 1 and CLOCK/BMAL1 was found to result in BMAL1 destabilization. We constructed a dynamic circadian PPI network predicting the PPI timing using circadian expression data. Systematic circadian phenotyping (RNAi and overexpression) suggests a crucial role for components involved in dynamic interactions. Systems analysis of a global dynamic network in liver revealed that interacting proteins are expressed at similar times likely to restrict regulatory interactions to specific phases. Moreover, we predict that circadian PPIs dynamically connect many important cellular processes (signal transduction, cell cycle, etc.) contributing to temporal organization of cellular physiology in an unprecedented manner.
Author Summary
Circadian clocks are endogenous oscillators that drive daily rhythms in physiology, metabolism, and behavior. In mammals, circadian rhythms are generated within nearly every cell; and, although dysfunction of circadian clocks is associated with various diseases (including diabetes and cancer), the molecular mechanisms linking the clock machinery with output pathways are little understood. Since essentially all biological processes depend on protein–protein interactions, we investigated here on a systems-wide level how time-of-day-specific protein–protein interactions contribute to the temporal organization of cellular physiology. We constructed a circadian interactome using experimentally generated protein–protein interaction data and made this network dynamic by the incorporation of time-of-day-dependent expression data. Interestingly, systematic genetic network perturbation (RNAi and overexpression) suggests a crucial role for circadian components involved in dynamic interactions. Systems analysis of a global network revealed that interacting proteins are in the liver significantly more expressed at similar daytimes likely to restrict regulatory interactions to specific circadian phases within cells. Overall, circadian protein–protein interactions are predicted to dynamically connect important cellular processes (signal transduction, cell cycle, etc.) using—very often—protein modules with components co-expressed in time, shedding new light on the daily organization of cellular physiology.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003398
PMCID: PMC3610820  PMID: 23555304
11.  Coupling governs entrainment range of circadian clocks 
Circadian clock oscillator properties that are crucial for synchronization with the environment (entrainment) are studied in experiment and theory.The ratio between stimulus (zeitgeber) strength and oscillator amplitude, and the rigidity of the oscillatory system (relaxation rate upon perturbation) determine entrainment properties. Coupling among oscillators affects both qualities resulting in increased amplitude and rigidity.Uncoupled lung clocks entrain to extreme zeitgeber cycles, whereas the coupled oscillator system in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) does not; however, when coupling in the SCN is inhibited, larger ranges of entrainment can be achieved.
Daily rhythms in physiology, metabolism and behavior are controlled by an endogenous circadian timing system, which has evolved to synchronize an organism to periodically recurring environmental conditions, such as light–dark or temperature cycles. In mammals, the circadian system relies on cell-autonomous oscillators residing in almost every cell of the body. Cells of the SCN in the anterior hypothalamus are able to generate precise, long-lasting self-sustained circadian oscillations, which drive most rhythmic behavioral and physiological outputs, and which are believed to originate from the fact that the SCN tissue consists of tightly coupled cells (Aton and Herzog, 2005). In contrast, peripheral oscillators, such as lung tissue, exhibit seemingly damped and usually less precise oscillations, which are thought to be brought about by the lack of intercellular coupling.
Precise synchronization of these rhythms within the organism, but also with the environment (so-called entrainment), is an essential part of circadian organization. Entrainment is one of the cornerstones of circadian biology (Roenneberg et al, 2003). In evolution, the phase of a rhythmic variable is selective rather than its endogenous period. Thus, the synchronization of endogenous rhythms to zeitgeber cycles of the environment (resulting in a specific phase of entrainment) is fundamental for the adaptive value of circadian clocks. In this study, we systematically investigated the properties of circadian oscillators that are essential for entrainment behavior and describe coupling as a primary determinant.
As an experimental starting point of this study, we found that the circadian oscillators of lung tissue have a larger range of entrainment than SCN tissue—they readily entrained to extreme experimental temperature cycle of 20 or 28 h, whereas SCN tissue did not (Figure 4). For this purpose, we cultured SCN and lung slices derived from mice that express luciferase as fusion protein together with the clock protein PERIOD2 (Yoo et al, 2004). The detection of luciferase-driven bioluminescence allowed us to follow molecular clock gene activity in real-time over the course of several days.
In theoretical analyses, we show that both the ratio of amplitude and zeitgeber strength and, importantly, inter-oscillator coupling are major determinants for entrainment. The reason for coupling being critical is twofold: (i) Coupling makes an oscillatory system more rigid, i.e., it relaxes faster in response to a perturbation, and (ii) coupling increases the amplitude of the oscillatory system. Both of these consequences of coupling lead to a smaller entrainment range, because zeitgeber stimuli affect the oscillatory system less if the relaxation is fast and the amplitude is high (Figure 1). From these theoretical considerations, we conclude that the lung clock probably constitutes a weak oscillatory system, likely because a lack in coupling leads to a slow amplitude relaxation. (Circadian amplitude is not particularly low in lung (Figure 4).) In contrast, the SCN constitutes a rigid oscillator, whereby coupling and its described consequences probably are the primary causes for this rigidity. We then tested these theoretical predictions by experimentally perturbing coupling in the SCN (with MDL and TTX; O'Neill et al, 2008; Yamaguchi et al, 2003) and find that, indeed, reducing the coupling weakens the circadian oscillatory system in the SCN, which results in an enlargement of the entrainment range (Figure 6).
Why is the SCN designed to be a stronger circadian oscillator than peripheral organs? We speculate that the position of the SCN—as the tissue that conveys environmental timing information (i.e., light) to the rest of the body—makes it necessary to create a circadian clock that is robust against noisy environmental stimuli. The SCN oscillator needs to be robust enough to be protected from environmental noise, but flexible enough to fulfill its function as an entrainable clock even in extreme photoperiods (i.e., seasons). By the same token, peripheral clocks are more protected from the environmental zeitgebers due to intrinsic homeostatic mechanisms. Thus, they do not necessarily need to develop a strong oscillatory system (e.g., by strengthening the coupling), rather they need to stay flexible enough to respond to direct or indirect signals from the SCN, such as hormonal, neural, temperature or metabolic signals. Such a design ensures that only robust and persistent environmental signals trigger an SCN resetting response, while SCN signals can relatively easily be conveyed to the rest of the body. Thus, the robustness in the SCN clock likely serves as a filter for environmental noise.
In summary, using a combination of simulation studies, analytical calculations and experiments, we uncovered critical features for entrainment, such as zeitgeber-to-amplitude ratio and amplitude relaxation rate. Coupling is a primary factor that governs these features explaining important differences in the design of SCN and peripheral oscillators that ensure a robust, but also flexible circadian system.
Circadian clocks are endogenous oscillators driving daily rhythms in physiology and behavior. Synchronization of these timers to environmental light–dark cycles (‘entrainment') is crucial for an organism's fitness. Little is known about which oscillator qualities determine entrainment, i.e., entrainment range, phase and amplitude. In a systematic theoretical and experimental study, we uncovered these qualities for circadian oscillators in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN—the master clock in mammals) and the lung (a peripheral clock): (i) the ratio between stimulus (zeitgeber) strength and oscillator amplitude and (ii) the rigidity of the oscillatory system (relaxation rate upon perturbation) determine entrainment properties. Coupling among oscillators affects both qualities resulting in increased amplitude and rigidity. These principles explain our experimental findings that lung clocks entrain to extreme zeitgeber cycles, whereas SCN clocks do not. We confirmed our theoretical predictions by showing that pharmacological inhibition of coupling in the SCN leads to larger ranges of entrainment. These differences between master and the peripheral clocks suggest that coupling-induced rigidity in the SCN filters environmental noise to create a robust circadian system.
doi:10.1038/msb.2010.92
PMCID: PMC3010105  PMID: 21119632
circadian clock; coupling; entrainment; mathematical modeling; oscillator
12.  Crosstalk between the Circadian Clock and Innate Immunity in Arabidopsis 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(6):e1003370.
The circadian clock integrates temporal information with environmental cues in regulating plant development and physiology. Recently, the circadian clock has been shown to affect plant responses to biotic cues. To further examine this role of the circadian clock, we tested disease resistance in mutants disrupted in CCA1 and LHY, which act synergistically to regulate clock activity. We found that cca1 and lhy mutants also synergistically affect basal and resistance gene-mediated defense against Pseudomonas syringae and Hyaloperonospora arabidopsidis. Disrupting the circadian clock caused by overexpression of CCA1 or LHY also resulted in severe susceptibility to P. syringae. We identified a downstream target of CCA1 and LHY, GRP7, a key constituent of a slave oscillator regulated by the circadian clock and previously shown to influence plant defense and stomatal activity. We show that the defense role of CCA1 and LHY against P. syringae is at least partially through circadian control of stomatal aperture but is independent of defense mediated by salicylic acid. Furthermore, we found defense activation by P. syringae infection and treatment with the elicitor flg22 can feedback-regulate clock activity. Together this data strongly supports a direct role of the circadian clock in defense control and reveal for the first time crosstalk between the circadian clock and plant innate immunity.
Author Summary
Plants are frequently challenged by various pathogens. The circadian clock, which is the internal time measuring machinery, has been implicated in regulating plant responses to biotic cues. To better understand the role of the circadian clock in defense control, we tested disease resistance with Arabidopsis mutants disrupted in CCA1 and LHY, two key components of the circadian clock. We found that consistent with their contributions to the circadian clock, cca1 and lhy mutants synergistically affect resistance to both bacterial and oomycete pathogens. Disrupting the circadian clock caused by overexpression of CCA1 or LHY also results in severe disease susceptibility. Thus, our data further demonstrate a direct role of the circadian clock mediated by CCA1 and LHY in defense regulation. We also found that CCA1 and LHY act independently of salicylic acid mediated defense but at least through the downstream target gene GRP7 to regulate both stomata-dependent and -independent pathways. We further show that defense activation by bacterial infection and the treatment with the elicitor flg22 can also feed back to regulate clock activity. Together our study reveals for the first time reciprocal regulation of the circadian clock and plant innate immunity, significantly expanding our view of complex gene networks regulating plant defense responses and development.
doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1003370
PMCID: PMC3675028  PMID: 23754942
13.  PPARs in Rhythmic Metabolic Regulation and Implications in Health and Disease 
PPAR Research  2010;2010:243643.
The circadian rhythm, controlled by a complex network of cellular transcription factors, orchestrates behavior and physiology in the vast majority of animals. The circadian system is comprised of a master clock located in central nervous system with 24-hour rotation and periphery clocks to ensure optimal timing of physiology in peripheral tissues. Circadian expression of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs), members of the nuclear receptor superfamily and key mediators of energy homeostasis and metabolism, is regulated by clock genes. PPARs serve as sensors of nutrient and energy/metabolism status to temporally entrain peripheral clock. Metabolism and circadian clocks are tightly intertwined: clock genes drive metabolism, and various metabolic parameters affect clock genes, producing a reciprocal feedback relationship. Due to PPARs' robust relationship with energy status and metabolism, the aberration of PPARs in the biological clock system leads to abnormal expression of genes in metabolic pathways, thus, contributing to etiology of metabolic syndrome. Studying PPARs' functions under the context of the mammalian circadian system could advance our understanding of how energy and metabolic status are maintained in the body, which may ultimately lead to rhythmic medical treatment against metabolic syndrome.
doi:10.1155/2010/243643
PMCID: PMC2943104  PMID: 20871864
14.  Regulation of alternative splicing by the circadian clock and food related cues 
Genome Biology  2012;13(6):R54.
Background
The circadian clock orchestrates daily rhythms in metabolism, physiology and behaviour that allow organisms to anticipate regular changes in their environment, increasing their adaptation. Such circadian phenotypes are underpinned by daily rhythms in gene expression. Little is known, however, about the contribution of post-transcriptional processes, particularly alternative splicing.
Results
Using Affymetrix mouse exon-arrays, we identified exons with circadian alternative splicing in the liver. Validated circadian exons were regulated in a tissue-dependent manner and were present in genes with circadian transcript abundance. Furthermore, an analysis of circadian mutant Vipr2-/- mice revealed the existence of distinct physiological pathways controlling circadian alternative splicing and RNA binding protein expression, with contrasting dependence on Vipr2-mediated physiological signals. This view was corroborated by the analysis of the effect of fasting on circadian alternative splicing. Feeding is an important circadian stimulus, and we found that fasting both modulates hepatic circadian alternative splicing in an exon-dependent manner and changes the temporal relationship with transcript-level expression.
Conclusions
The circadian clock regulates alternative splicing in a manner that is both tissue-dependent and concurrent with circadian transcript abundance. This adds a novel temporal dimension to the regulation of mammalian alternative splicing. Moreover, our results demonstrate that circadian alternative splicing is regulated by the interaction between distinct physiological cues, and illustrates the capability of single genes to integrate circadian signals at different levels of regulation.
doi:10.1186/gb-2012-13-6-r54
PMCID: PMC3446320  PMID: 22721557
15.  Disrupting Circadian Homeostasis of Sympathetic Signaling Promotes Tumor Development in Mice 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(6):e10995.
Background
Cell proliferation in all rapidly renewing mammalian tissues follows a circadian rhythm that is often disrupted in advanced-stage tumors. Epidemiologic studies have revealed a clear link between disruption of circadian rhythms and cancer development in humans. Mice lacking the circadian genes Period1 and 2 (Per) or Cryptochrome1 and 2 (Cry) are deficient in cell cycle regulation and Per2 mutant mice are cancer-prone. However, it remains unclear how circadian rhythm in cell proliferation is generated in vivo and why disruption of circadian rhythm may lead to tumorigenesis.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Mice lacking Per1 and 2, Cry1 and 2, or one copy of Bmal1, all show increased spontaneous and radiation-induced tumor development. The neoplastic growth of Per-mutant somatic cells is not controlled cell-autonomously but is dependent upon extracellular mitogenic signals. Among the circadian output pathways, the rhythmic sympathetic signaling plays a key role in the central-peripheral timing mechanism that simultaneously activates the cell cycle clock via AP1-controlled Myc induction and p53 via peripheral clock-controlled ATM activation. Jet-lag promptly desynchronizes the central clock-SNS-peripheral clock axis, abolishes the peripheral clock-dependent ATM activation, and activates myc oncogenic potential, leading to tumor development in the same organ systems in wild-type and circadian gene-mutant mice.
Conclusions/Significance
Tumor suppression in vivo is a clock-controlled physiological function. The central circadian clock paces extracellular mitogenic signals that drive peripheral clock-controlled expression of key cell cycle and tumor suppressor genes to generate a circadian rhythm in cell proliferation. Frequent disruption of circadian rhythm is an important tumor promoting factor.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0010995
PMCID: PMC2881876  PMID: 20539819
16.  Circadian Period Integrates Network Information Through Activation of the BMP Signaling Pathway 
PLoS Biology  2013;11(12):e1001733.
Circadian pacemaker neurons in the Drosophila brain gather network information through the highly conserved BMP signaling pathway to establish the daily period of locomotor behavior.
Living organisms use biological clocks to maintain their internal temporal order and anticipate daily environmental changes. In Drosophila, circadian regulation of locomotor behavior is controlled by ∼150 neurons; among them, neurons expressing the PIGMENT DISPERSING FACTOR (PDF) set the period of locomotor behavior under free-running conditions. To date, it remains unclear how individual circadian clusters integrate their activity to assemble a distinctive behavioral output. Here we show that the BONE MORPHOGENETIC PROTEIN (BMP) signaling pathway plays a crucial role in setting the circadian period in PDF neurons in the adult brain. Acute deregulation of BMP signaling causes period lengthening through regulation of dClock transcription, providing evidence for a novel function of this pathway in the adult brain. We propose that coherence in the circadian network arises from integration in PDF neurons of both the pace of the cell-autonomous molecular clock and information derived from circadian-relevant neurons through release of BMP ligands.
Author Summary
The circadian clock controls rhythms in behavior, physiology, and metabolism in all living organisms. The molecular components as well as the neuronal network required to keep this clock running have been identified in several species. In the Drosophila brain this neuronal network is represented by an ensemble of 150 neurons, and among them, those expressing the Pigment Dispersing Factor (PDF) neuropeptide encompass the “central oscillator”—also called master clock as it ensures 24-hour periods—of the fly brain. In this study we show that the widely conserved Bone Morphogenetic Protein (BMP) signaling pathway is present in PDF neurons, and upon adult-specific activation it lengthens the endogenous period of locomotor behavior. We find that period lengthening correlates with delayed accumulation of nuclear PERIOD, a core component of the molecular clock. We also identified a putative DNA binding motif for the BMP pathway nuclear components within the regulatory region of the Clock (Clk) promoter, another core component of the circadian machinery. Interestingly, upon BMP pathway activation endogenous CLK levels are downregulated, thus accounting for the lengthening of the endogenous period. We propose that the endogenous period is a network property commanded by PDF neurons that results from integration of information from both the autonomous molecular clock and the nonautonomous BMP signaling pathway.
doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001733
PMCID: PMC3858370  PMID: 24339749
17.  High-Throughput Chemical Screen Identifies a Novel Potent Modulator of Cellular Circadian Rhythms and Reveals CKIα as a Clock Regulatory Kinase 
PLoS Biology  2010;8(12):e1000559.
A novel compound “longdaysin” was found to dramatically slow down the speed of the circadian clock through simultaneous inhibition of protein kinases CKIδ, CKIα, and ERK2.
The circadian clock underlies daily rhythms of diverse physiological processes, and alterations in clock function have been linked to numerous pathologies. To apply chemical biology methods to modulate and dissect the clock mechanism with new chemical probes, we performed a circadian screen of ∼120,000 uncharacterized compounds on human cells containing a circadian reporter. The analysis identified a small molecule that potently lengthens the circadian period in a dose-dependent manner. Subsequent analysis showed that the compound also lengthened the period in a variety of cells from different tissues including the mouse suprachiasmatic nucleus, the central clock controlling behavioral rhythms. Based on the prominent period lengthening effect, we named the compound longdaysin. Longdaysin was amenable for chemical modification to perform affinity chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry analysis to identify target proteins. Combined with siRNA-mediated gene knockdown, we identified the protein kinases CKIδ, CKIα, and ERK2 as targets of longdaysin responsible for the observed effect on circadian period. Although individual knockdown of CKIδ, CKIα, and ERK2 had small period effects, their combinatorial knockdown dramatically lengthened the period similar to longdaysin treatment. We characterized the role of CKIα in the clock mechanism and found that CKIα-mediated phosphorylation stimulated degradation of a clock protein PER1, similar to the function of CKIδ. Longdaysin treatment inhibited PER1 degradation, providing insight into the mechanism of longdaysin-dependent period lengthening. Using larval zebrafish, we further demonstrated that longdaysin drastically lengthened circadian period in vivo. Taken together, the chemical biology approach not only revealed CKIα as a clock regulatory kinase but also identified a multiple kinase network conferring robustness to the clock. Longdaysin provides novel possibilities in manipulating clock function due to its ability to simultaneously inhibit several key components of this conserved network across species.
Author Summary
Most organisms show daily rhythms in physiology, behavior, and metabolism, which may be advantageous because they anticipate environmental changes thus optimize energy metabolism. These rhythms are controlled by the circadian clock, which produces cyclic expression of thousands of output genes. More than a dozen components of the circadian clock are called clock genes, and the proteins they encode form a transcription factor network that generates rhythmic gene expression. In this study, we set out to control the function of the circadian clock and to identify new clock proteins by means of chemical tools. We tested the effects on the clock in human cells of around 120,000 uncharacterized compounds. Here we describe identification of a novel compound “longdaysin” that markedly slows the circadian clock both in cultured mammalian cells and in living zebrafish. By using longdaysin as a chemical probe, we found new proteins that modulate clock function. Because defects of clock function have been linked to numerous diseases, longdaysin may form the basis for therapeutic strategies directed towards circadian rhythm-related disorders, shift-work fatigue, and jet lag.
doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000559
PMCID: PMC3001897  PMID: 21179498
18.  Minimum Criteria for DNA Damage-Induced Phase Advances in Circadian Rhythms 
PLoS Computational Biology  2009;5(5):e1000384.
Robust oscillatory behaviors are common features of circadian and cell cycle rhythms. These cyclic processes, however, behave distinctively in terms of their periods and phases in response to external influences such as light, temperature, nutrients, etc. Nevertheless, several links have been found between these two oscillators. Cell division cycles gated by the circadian clock have been observed since the late 1950s. On the other hand, ionizing radiation (IR) treatments cause cells to undergo a DNA damage response, which leads to phase shifts (mostly advances) in circadian rhythms. Circadian gating of the cell cycle can be attributed to the cell cycle inhibitor kinase Wee1 (which is regulated by the heterodimeric circadian clock transcription factor, BMAL1/CLK), and possibly in conjunction with other cell cycle components that are known to be regulated by the circadian clock (i.e., c-Myc and cyclin D1). It has also been shown that DNA damage-induced activation of the cell cycle regulator, Chk2, leads to phosphorylation and destruction of a circadian clock component (i.e., PER1 in Mus or FRQ in Neurospora crassa). However, the molecular mechanism underlying how DNA damage causes predominantly phase advances in the circadian clock remains unknown. In order to address this question, we employ mathematical modeling to simulate different phase response curves (PRCs) from either dexamethasone (Dex) or IR treatment experiments. Dex is known to synchronize circadian rhythms in cell culture and may generate both phase advances and delays. We observe unique phase responses with minimum delays of the circadian clock upon DNA damage when two criteria are met: (1) existence of an autocatalytic positive feedback mechanism in addition to the time-delayed negative feedback loop in the clock system and (2) Chk2-dependent phosphorylation and degradation of PERs that are not bound to BMAL1/CLK.
Author Summary
Molecular components and mechanisms that connect cell cycle and circadian rhythms are important for the well-being of an organism. Cell cycle machinery regulates the progress of cell growth and division while the circadian rhythm network generates an ∼24 h time-keeping mechanism that regulates the daily processes of an organism (i.e. metabolism, bowel movements, body temperature, etc.). It is observed that cell divisions usually occur during a certain time window of a day, which indicated that there are circadian-gated cell divisions. Moreover, it's been shown that mice are more prone to develop cancer when certain clock genes are mutated resulting in an arrhythmic clock. Recently, a cell cycle checkpoint regulator, Chk2, was identified as a component that influences a core clock component and creates mostly phase advances (i.e., jet lags due to traveling east) in circadian rhythms upon DNA damage. This phase response with minimum delays is an unexpected result, and the molecular mechanism behind this phenomenon remains unknown. Our computational analyses of a mathematical model reveal two molecular criteria that account for the experimentally observed phase responses of the circadian clock upon DNA damage. These results demonstrate how circadian clock regulation by cell cycle checkpoint controllers provides another layer of complexity for efficient DNA damage responses.
doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000384
PMCID: PMC2677641  PMID: 19424508
19.  Glucocorticoids Play a Key Role in Circadian Cell Cycle Rhythms  
PLoS Biology  2007;5(4):e78.
Clock output pathways play a pivotal role by relaying timing information from the circadian clock to a diversity of physiological systems. Both cell-autonomous and systemic mechanisms have been implicated as clock outputs; however, the relative importance and interplay between these mechanisms are poorly understood. The cell cycle represents a highly conserved regulatory target of the circadian timing system. Previously, we have demonstrated that in zebrafish, the circadian clock has the capacity to generate daily rhythms of S phase by a cell-autonomous mechanism in vitro. Here, by studying a panel of zebrafish mutants, we reveal that the pituitary–adrenal axis also plays an essential role in establishing these rhythms in the whole animal. Mutants with a reduction or a complete absence of corticotrope pituitary cells show attenuated cell-proliferation rhythms, whereas expression of circadian clock genes is not affected. We show that the corticotrope deficiency is associated with reduced cortisol levels, implicating glucocorticoids as a component of a systemic signaling pathway required for circadian cell cycle rhythmicity. Strikingly, high-amplitude rhythms can be rescued by exposing mutant larvae to a tonic concentration of a glucocorticoid agonist. Our work suggests that cell-autonomous clock mechanisms are not sufficient to establish circadian cell cycle rhythms at the whole-animal level. Instead, they act in concert with a systemic signaling environment of which glucocorticoids are an essential part.
Author Summary
To guarantee normal growth and to avoid tumor formation, the timing of cell division must be under strict control. Remarkably, cells, from bacteria to man, often divide only at certain times of day, suggesting the influence of internal biological clocks. A central pacemaker structure in the brain controls diurnal rhythms of behavior and hormone release. However, biological clocks are also encountered in almost every cell type (so-called “peripheral” clocks), in which they regulate daily changes in cell biology, including cell division. Very little is known to date about how the two clock systems interact. Here, by examining zebrafish strains with defects in hormone production, we find that peripheral clocks require the steroid hormone cortisol to generate daily rhythms of cell proliferation. Interestingly, the daily changes in cortisol levels observed in normal zebrafish are not required to achieve this control; treating the cortisol-deficient strains with constant levels of a drug that mimics the effects of cortisol restores normal cell-division rhythms. Thus, it appears that internal cell timers cooperate with hormonal signals to regulate the timing of cell division.
To establish circadian cell cycle rhythms, cell-autonomous clock mechanisms act in concert with a systemic signaling environment of which glucocorticoids are an essential part.
doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0050078
PMCID: PMC1828142  PMID: 17373855
20.  Genomic Convergence among ERRα, PROX1, and BMAL1 in the Control of Metabolic Clock Outputs 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(6):e1002143.
Metabolic homeostasis and circadian rhythms are closely intertwined biological processes. Nuclear receptors, as sensors of hormonal and nutrient status, are actively implicated in maintaining this physiological relationship. Although the orphan nuclear receptor estrogen-related receptor α (ERRα, NR3B1) plays a central role in the control of energy metabolism and its expression is known to be cyclic in the liver, its role in temporal control of metabolic networks is unknown. Here we report that ERRα directly regulates all major components of the molecular clock. ERRα-null mice also display deregulated locomotor activity rhythms and circadian period lengths under free-running conditions, as well as altered circulating diurnal bile acid and lipid profiles. In addition, the ERRα-null mice exhibit time-dependent hypoglycemia and hypoinsulinemia, suggesting a role for ERRα in modulating insulin sensitivity and glucose handling during the 24-hour light/dark cycle. We also provide evidence that the newly identified ERRα corepressor PROX1 is implicated in rhythmic control of metabolic outputs. To help uncover the molecular basis of these phenotypes, we performed genome-wide location analyses of binding events by ERRα, PROX1, and BMAL1, an integral component of the molecular clock. These studies revealed the existence of transcriptional regulatory loops among ERRα, PROX1, and BMAL1, as well as extensive overlaps in their target genes, implicating these three factors in the control of clock and metabolic gene networks in the liver. Genomic convergence of ERRα, PROX1, and BMAL1 transcriptional activity thus identified a novel node in the molecular circuitry controlling the daily timing of metabolic processes.
Author Summary
The molecular basis for coordinated control of circadian rhythms and metabolism is not well understood. Although integral components of the molecular clock such as the transcription factor BMAL1 can directly regulate some metabolic genes, the output from the circadian oscillator is believed to be in large part mediated through the action of transcription factors whose patterns of expression are rhythmic in metabolic tissues. The estrogen-related receptor α (ERRα, NR3B1) and its corepressor PROX1, two major metabolic regulators, could be well suited for this function. Indeed, we show that proper maintenance of daily glucose, insulin, bile acid, lipid, and locomotor rhythms in mice are dependent on the presence of ERRα. Ablation of PROX1 in synchronized HepG2 cells revealed the importance of PROX1 in regulating the rhythmic expression of clock and metabolic genes. Using genome-wide analysis of promoter occupancy and gene expression analyses, we identify ERRα and PROX1 as novel transcriptional regulators of the molecular clock and show that the direct participation of BMAL1 in the clock output pathway related to metabolic control is highly extensive. ERRα and BMAL1 thus serve as key bidirectional regulators connecting the peripheral clock and cellular energy metabolism.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1002143
PMCID: PMC3121748  PMID: 21731503
21.  System-Driven and Oscillator-Dependent Circadian Transcription in Mice with a Conditionally Active Liver Clock  
PLoS Biology  2007;5(2):e34.
The mammalian circadian timing system consists of a master pacemaker in neurons of the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) and clocks of a similar molecular makeup in most peripheral body cells. Peripheral oscillators are self-sustained and cell autonomous, but they have to be synchronized by the SCN to ensure phase coherence within the organism. In principle, the rhythmic expression of genes in peripheral organs could thus be driven not only by local oscillators, but also by circadian systemic signals. To discriminate between these mechanisms, we engineered a mouse strain with a conditionally active liver clock, in which REV-ERBα represses the transcription of the essential core clock gene Bmal1 in a doxycycline-dependent manner. We examined circadian liver gene expression genome-wide in mice in which hepatocyte oscillators were either running or arrested, and found that the rhythmic transcription of most genes depended on functional hepatocyte clocks. However, we discovered 31 genes, including the core clock gene mPer2, whose expression oscillated robustly irrespective of whether the liver clock was running or not. By contrast, in liver explants cultured in vitro, circadian cycles of mPer2::luciferase bioluminescence could only be observed when hepatocyte oscillators were operational. Hence, the circadian cycles observed in the liver of intact animals without functional hepatocyte oscillators were likely generated by systemic signals. The finding that rhythmic mPer2 expression can be driven by both systemic cues and local oscillators suggests a plausible mechanism for the phase entrainment of subsidiary clocks in peripheral organs.
Author Summary
In contrast to previously held belief, molecular circadian oscillators are not restricted to specialized pacemaker tissues, such as the brain's suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), but exist in virtually all body cells. Although the circadian clocks operative in peripheral cell types are as robust as those residing in SCN neurons, they quickly become desynchronized in vitro due to variations in period length. Hence, in intact animals, the phase coherence between peripheral oscillators must be established by daily signals generated by the SCN master clock. Although the hierarchy between master and slave oscillators is now well established, the respective roles of these clocks in governing the circadian transcription program in a given organ have never been examined. In principle, the circadian expression of genes in a peripheral tissue could be driven either by cyclic systemic cues, by peripheral oscillators, or by both. In order to discriminate between genes regulated by local oscillators and systemic cues in liver, we generated mice in which hepatocyte clocks can be turned on and off at will. These studies suggest that 90% of the circadian transcription program in the liver is abolished or strongly attenuated when hepatocyte clocks are turned off, indicating that the expression of most circadian liver genes is orchestrated by local cellular clocks. The remaining 10% of cyclically expressed liver genes continue to be transcribed in a robustly circadian fashion in the absence of functional hepatocyte oscillators. These genes, which unexpectedly include the bona fide clock gene mPer2, must therefore be regulated by oscillating systemic signals, such as hormones, metabolites, or body temperature. Although temperature rhythms display only modest amplitudes, they appear to play a significant role in the phase entrainment of mPer2 transcription.
Research on mice engineered with an inducible liver clock enabled identification of some genes with expression controlled by the local clock, and other genes (includingmPer2) that maintained circadian oscillations thanks to cues from the SCN.
doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0050034
PMCID: PMC1783671  PMID: 17298173
22.  Clocks on top: The role of the circadian clock in the hypothalamic and pituitary regulation of endocrine physiology 
Recent strides in circadian biology over the last several decades have allowed researchers new insight into how molecular circadian clocks influence the broader physiology of mammals. Elucidation of transcriptional feedback loops at the heart of endogenous circadian clocks has allowed for a deeper analysis of how timed cellular programs exert effects on multiple endocrine axes. While the full understanding of endogenous clocks is currently incomplete, recent work has re-evaluated prior findings with a new understanding of the involvement of these cellular oscillators, and how they may play a role in constructing rhythmic hormone synthesis, secretion, reception, and metabolism. This review addresses current research into how multiple circadian clocks in the hypothalamus and pituitary receive photic information from oscillators within the hypothalamic suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), and how resultant hypophysiotropic and pituitary hormone release is then temporally gated to produce an optimal result at the cognate target tissue. Special emphasis is placed not only on neural communication among the SCN and other hypothalamic nuclei, but also how endogenous clocks within the endocrine hypothalamus and pituitary may modulate local hormone synthesis and secretion in response to SCN cues. Through evaluation of a larger body of research into the impact of circadian biology on endocrinology, we can develop a greater appreciation into the importance of timing in endocrine systems, and how understanding of these endogenous rhythms can aid in constructing appropriate therapeutic treatments for a variety of endocrinopathies.
doi:10.1016/j.mce.2011.07.003
PMCID: PMC3242828  PMID: 21787834
23.  Analysis of a Gene Regulatory Cascade Mediating Circadian Rhythm in Zebrafish 
PLoS Computational Biology  2013;9(2):e1002940.
In the study of circadian rhythms, it has been a puzzle how a limited number of circadian clock genes can control diverse aspects of physiology. Here we investigate circadian gene expression genome-wide using larval zebrafish as a model system. We made use of a spatial gene expression atlas to investigate the expression of circadian genes in various tissues and cell types. Comparison of genome-wide circadian gene expression data between zebrafish and mouse revealed a nearly anti-phase relationship and allowed us to detect novel evolutionarily conserved circadian genes in vertebrates. We identified three groups of zebrafish genes with distinct responses to light entrainment: fast light-induced genes, slow light-induced genes, and dark-induced genes. Our computational analysis of the circadian gene regulatory network revealed several transcription factors (TFs) involved in diverse aspects of circadian physiology through transcriptional cascade. Of these, microphthalmia-associated transcription factor a (mitfa), a dark-induced TF, mediates a circadian rhythm of melanin synthesis, which may be involved in zebrafish's adaptation to daily light cycling. Our study describes a systematic method to discover previously unidentified TFs involved in circadian physiology in complex organisms.
Author Summary
For most animals whose lives are dependent on the sun, circadian clocks govern their daily behaviors and physiology. In different animals, novel functions under the circadian clock's control can evolve as adaptations to their specific environment. A zebrafish demonstrates a remarkably high level of interplay between external light and its internal circadian clock due to its transparent nature. In a genome-wide study, we identified a large number of circadian oscillating genes as well as genes whose expression is highly sensitive to the light or dark in zebrafish. Our computational analysis of gene regulatory networks revealed a number of transcription factors (TFs) that mediate novel circadian functions. We investigated one example in depth, a key TF that relays the control of the circadian clock to the enzymes synthesizing melanin in a dark-induced pathway thus causing the daily change of pigmentation in zebrafish. This dark-induced circadian melanogenesis can lead to an anticipatory change in zebrafish skin color allowing zebrafish to adapt to its environment. This mechanism allows zebrafish to better evade predators and effectively adjust its daily light-sensitivity in the pigment cells. Our study provides an excellent example of how the circadian clock is adapted in a specific organism to control its behavior, thus enabling evolutionary adaptation to the organism's ecological niche.
doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002940
PMCID: PMC3585402  PMID: 23468616
24.  Modelling the widespread effects of TOC1 signalling on the plant circadian clock and its outputs 
BMC Systems Biology  2013;7:23.
Background
24-hour biological clocks are intimately connected to the cellular signalling network, which complicates the analysis of clock mechanisms. The transcriptional regulator TOC1 (TIMING OF CAB EXPRESSION 1) is a founding component of the gene circuit in the plant circadian clock. Recent results show that TOC1 suppresses transcription of multiple target genes within the clock circuit, far beyond its previously-described regulation of the morning transcription factors LHY (LATE ELONGATED HYPOCOTYL) and CCA1 (CIRCADIAN CLOCK ASSOCIATED 1). It is unclear how this pervasive effect of TOC1 affects the dynamics of the clock and its outputs. TOC1 also appears to function in a nested feedback loop that includes signalling by the plant hormone Abscisic Acid (ABA), which is upregulated by abiotic stresses, such as drought. ABA treatments both alter TOC1 levels and affect the clock’s timing behaviour. Conversely, the clock rhythmically modulates physiological processes induced by ABA, such as the closing of stomata in the leaf epidermis. In order to understand the dynamics of the clock and its outputs under changing environmental conditions, the reciprocal interactions between the clock and other signalling pathways must be integrated.
Results
We extended the mathematical model of the plant clock gene circuit by incorporating the repression of multiple clock genes by TOC1, observed experimentally. The revised model more accurately matches the data on the clock’s molecular profiles and timing behaviour, explaining the clock’s responses in TOC1 over-expression and toc1 mutant plants. A simplified representation of ABA signalling allowed us to investigate the interactions of ABA and circadian pathways. Increased ABA levels lengthen the free-running period of the clock, consistent with the experimental data. Adding stomatal closure to the model, as a key ABA- and clock-regulated downstream process allowed to describe TOC1 effects on the rhythmic gating of stomatal closure.
Conclusions
The integrated model of the circadian clock circuit and ABA-regulated environmental sensing allowed us to explain multiple experimental observations on the timing and stomatal responses to genetic and environmental perturbations. These results crystallise a new role of TOC1 as an environmental sensor, which both affects the pace of the central oscillator and modulates the kinetics of downstream processes.
doi:10.1186/1752-0509-7-23
PMCID: PMC3614443  PMID: 23506153
Circadian rhythms; Biological clocks; Gene regulatory networks; Mathematical model; Systems biology
25.  In-Vivo Quantitative Proteomics Reveals a Key Contribution of Post-Transcriptional Mechanisms to the Circadian Regulation of Liver Metabolism 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(1):e1004047.
Circadian clocks are endogenous oscillators that drive the rhythmic expression of a broad array of genes, orchestrating metabolism and physiology. Recent evidence indicates that post-transcriptional and post-translational mechanisms play essential roles in modulating temporal gene expression for proper circadian function, particularly for the molecular mechanism of the clock. Due to technical limitations in large-scale, quantitative protein measurements, it remains unresolved to what extent the circadian clock regulates metabolism by driving rhythms of protein abundance. Therefore, we aimed to identify global circadian oscillations of the proteome in the mouse liver by applying in vivo SILAC mouse technology in combination with state of the art mass spectrometry. Among the 3000 proteins accurately quantified across two consecutive cycles, 6% showed circadian oscillations with a defined phase of expression. Interestingly, daily rhythms of one fifth of the liver proteins were not accompanied by changes at the transcript level. The oscillations of almost half of the cycling proteome were delayed by more than six hours with respect to the corresponding, rhythmic mRNA. Strikingly we observed that the length of the time lag between mRNA and protein cycles varies across the day. Our analysis revealed a high temporal coordination in the abundance of proteins involved in the same metabolic process, such as xenobiotic detoxification. Apart from liver specific metabolic pathways, we identified many other essential cellular processes in which protein levels are under circadian control, for instance vesicle trafficking and protein folding. Our large-scale proteomic analysis reveals thus that circadian post-transcriptional and post-translational mechanisms play a key role in the temporal orchestration of liver metabolism and physiology.
Author Summary
The circadian clock is an evolutionary system that allows organisms to anticipate and thus adapt to daily changes in the environment. In mammals, the circadian clock is found in virtually every tissue regulating rhythms of metabolism and physiology. While a lot of studies have focused in how circadian clocks regulate gene expression little is known about daily control of protein abundance. Here we applied state of the art mass spectrometry in combination with quantitative proteomics to investigate global circadian oscillations of the proteome in the mouse liver. We found that approximately 6% of the liver proteins are cycling daily and interestingly the majority of these oscillations diverge from the behavior of their transcripts. Our data indicates that post-transcriptional mechanisms play an essential role in shaping the phase of rhythmic proteins downstream of transcription regulation to ultimately drive rhythms of metabolism. Moreover, the contribution of post-transcriptional regulation seems to differ among distinct metabolic pathways. Overall we not only found circadian oscillations in the abundance of proteins involved in liver specific metabolic pathways but also in essential cellular processes.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1004047
PMCID: PMC3879213  PMID: 24391516

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