Hans H Reinke, Gad G Asher


The circadian clock is an endogenous biological timekeeping system that synchronizes physiology and behavior to day/night cycles. A wide variety of processes throughout the entire gastrointestinal tract and notably the liver appear to be under circadian control. These include various metabolic functions such as nutrient uptake, processing, and detoxification, which align organ function to cycle with nutrient supply and demand. Remarkably, genetic or environmental disruption of the circadian clock can cause metabolic diseases or exacerbate pathological states. In addition, modern lifestyles force more and more people worldwide into asynchrony between the external time and their circadian clock, resulting in a constant state of social jetlag. Recent evidence indicates that interactions between altered energy metabolism and disruptions in the circadian clock create a downward spiral that can lead to diabetes and other metabolic diseases. In this review, we provide an overview of rhythmic processes in the liver and highlight the functions of circadian clock genes under physiological and pathological conditions; we focus on their roles in regulation of hepatic glucose as well as lipid and bile acid metabolism and detoxification and their potential effects on the development of fatty liver and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis.