Circadian rhythms in liver physiology and liver diseases.

Research paper by Xin X Tong, Lei L Yin

Indexed on: 31 May '13Published on: 31 May '13Published in: Comprehensive Physiology


In mammals, circadian rhythms function to coordinate a diverse panel of physiological processes with environmental conditions such as food and light. As the driving force for circadian rhythmicity, the molecular clock is a self-sustained transcription-translational feedback loop system consisting of transcription factors, epigenetic modulators, kinases/phosphatases, and ubiquitin E3 ligases. The molecular clock exists not only in the suprachiasmatic nuclei of the hypothalamus but also in the peripheral tissues to regulate cellular and physiological function in a tissue-specific manner. The circadian clock system in the liver plays important roles in regulating metabolism and energy homeostasis. Clock gene mutant animals display impaired glucose and lipid metabolism and are susceptible to diet-induced obesity and metabolic dysfunction, providing strong evidence for the connection between the circadian clock and metabolic homeostasis. Circadian-controlled hepatic metabolism is partially achieved by controlling the expression and/or activity of key metabolic enzymes, transcription factors, signaling molecules, and transporters. Reciprocally, intracellular metabolites modulate the molecular clock activity in response to the energy status. Although still at the early stage, circadian clock dysfunction has been implicated in common chronic liver diseases. Circadian dysregulation of lipid metabolism, detoxification, reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, and cell-cycle control might contribute to the onset and progression of liver steatosis, fibrosis, and even carcinogenesis. In summary, these findings call for a comprehensive study of the function and mechanisms of hepatic circadian clock to gain better understanding of liver physiology and diseases.