[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In animals, circadian rhythms in physiology and behavior result from coherent rhythmic interactions between clocks in the brain and those throughout the body. Despite the many tissue specific clocks, most understanding of the molecular core clock mechanism comes from studies of the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) of the hypothalamus and a few other cell types. Here we report establishment and genetic characterization of three cell-autonomous mouse clock models: 3T3 fibroblasts, 3T3-L1 adipocytes, and MMH-D3 hepatocytes. Each model is genetically tractable and has an integrated luciferase reporter that allows for longitudinal luminescence recording of rhythmic clock gene expression using an inexpensive off-the-shelf microplate reader. To test these cellular models, we generated a library of short hairpin RNAs (shRNAs) against a panel of known clock genes and evaluated their impact on circadian rhythms. Knockdown of Bmal1, Clock, Cry1, and Cry2 each resulted in similar phenotypes in all three models, consistent with previous studies. However, we observed cell type-specific knockdown phenotypes for the Period and Rev-Erb families of clock genes. In particular, Per1 and Per2, which have strong behavioral effects in knockout mice, appear to play different roles in regulating period length and amplitude in these peripheral systems. Per3, which has relatively modest behavioral effects in knockout mice, substantially affects period length in the three cellular models and in dissociated SCN neurons. In summary, this study establishes new cell-autonomous clock models that are of particular relevance to metabolism and suitable for screening for clock modifiers, and reveals previously under-appreciated cell type-specific functions of clock genes.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Protein synthesis is critical for circadian clock function, but little is known of how translational regulation controls the master pacemaker in mammals, the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). Here we demonstrate that the pivotal translational repressor, the eukaryotic translational initiation factor 4E binding protein 1 (4E-BP1), is rhythmically regulated via the mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling in the SCN and preferentially represses vasoactive intestinal peptide (Vip) mRNA translation. Knockout (KO) of Eif4ebp1 (gene encoding 4E-BP1) leads to upregulation of VIP and higher amplitude of molecular rhythms in the SCN. Consequently, the 4E-BP1 null mice exhibit accelerated re-entrainment to a shifted light/dark cycle and are more resistant to the rhythm-disruptive effects of constant light. Conversely, in Mtor(+/-) mice VIP expression is decreased and susceptibility to the effects of constant light is increased. These results reveal a key role for mTOR/4E-BP1-mediated translational control in regulating entrainment and synchrony of the master clock.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In mammals, the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) is the central pacemaker organizing circadian rhythms of behavior and physiology. At the cellular level, the mammalian clock consists of autoregulatory feedback loops involving a set of "clock genes," including the Cryptochrome (Cry) genes, Cry1 and Cry2. Experimental evidence suggests that Cry1 and Cry2 play distinct roles in circadian clock function. In mice, Cry1 is required for sustained circadian rhythms in dissociated SCN neurons or fibroblasts but not in organotypic SCN slices or at the behavioral level, whereas Cry2 is not required at any of these levels. It has been argued that coupling among SCN cellular oscillators compensates for clock gene defects to preserve oscillatory function. Here we test this hypothesis in Cry1(-/-) mice by first disrupting intercellular coupling in vivo using constant light (resulting in behavioral arrhythmicity) and then examining circadian clock gene expression in SCN slices at the single cell level. In this manner, we were able to test the role of intercellular coupling without drugs and while preserving tissue organization, avoiding the confounding influences of more invasive manipulations. Cry1(-/-) mice (as well as control Cry2(-/-) mice) bearing the PER2::LUC knock-in reporter were transferred from a standard light:dark cycle to constant bright light (~650 lux) to induce arrhythmic locomotor patterns. In SCN slices from these animals, we used bioluminescence imaging to monitor PER2::LUC expression in single cells. We show that SCN slices from rhythmic Cry1(-/-) and Cry2(-/-) mice had similarly high percentages of functional single-cell oscillators. In contrast, SCN slices from arrhythmic Cry1(-/-) mice had significantly fewer rhythmic cells than SCN slices from arrhythmic Cry2(-/-) mice. Thus, constant light in vivo disrupted intercellular SCN coupling to reveal a cell-autonomous circadian defect in Cry1(-/-) cells that is normally compensated by intercellular coupling in vivo.
Journal of Biological Rhythms 12/2012; 27(6):443-452. · 3.23 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Circadian clocks in mammals are based on a negative feedback loop in which transcriptional repression by the cryptochromes, CRY1 and CRY2, lies at the heart of the mechanism. Despite similarities in sequence, domain structure, and biochemical activity, they play distinct roles in clock function. However, detailed biochemical studies have not been straightforward and Cry function has not been examined in real clock cells using kinetic measurements. In this study, we demonstrate, through cell-based genetic complementation and real-time molecular recording, that Cry1 alone is able to maintain cell-autonomous circadian rhythms, whereas Cry2 cannot. Using this novel functional assay, we identify a cryptochrome differentiating α-helical domain within the photolyase homology region (PHR) of CRY1, designated as CRY1-PHR(313-426), that is required for clock function and distinguishes CRY1 from CRY2. Contrary to speculation, the divergent carboxyl-terminal tail domain (CTD) is dispensable, but serves to modulate rhythm amplitude and period length. Finally, we identify the biochemical basis of their distinct function; CRY1 is a much more potent transcriptional repressor than CRY2, and the strength of repression by various forms of CRY proteins significantly correlates with rhythm amplitude. Taken together, our results demonstrate that CRY1-PHR(313-426), not the divergent CTD, is critical for clock function. These findings provide novel insights into the evolution of the diverse functions of the photolyase/cryptochrome family of flavoproteins and offer new opportunities for mechanistic studies of CRY function.
Journal of Biological Chemistry 06/2012; 287(31):25917-26. · 4.65 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In mammals, many aspects of behavior and physiology such as sleep-wake cycles and liver metabolism are regulated by endogenous circadian clocks (reviewed(1,2)). The circadian time-keeping system is a hierarchical multi-oscillator network, with the central clock located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) synchronizing and coordinating extra-SCN and peripheral clocks elsewhere(1,2). Individual cells are the functional units for generation and maintenance of circadian rhythms(3,4), and these oscillators of different tissue types in the organism share a remarkably similar biochemical negative feedback mechanism. However, due to interactions at the neuronal network level in the SCN and through rhythmic, systemic cues at the organismal level, circadian rhythms at the organismal level are not necessarily cell-autonomous(5-7). Compared to traditional studies of locomotor activity in vivo and SCN explants ex vivo, cell-based in vitro assays allow for discovery of cell-autonomous circadian defects(5,8). Strategically, cell-based models are more experimentally tractable for phenotypic characterization and rapid discovery of basic clock mechanisms(5,8-13). Because circadian rhythms are dynamic, longitudinal measurements with high temporal resolution are needed to assess clock function. In recent years, real-time bioluminescence recording using firefly luciferase as a reporter has become a common technique for studying circadian rhythms in mammals(14,15), as it allows for examination of the persistence and dynamics of molecular rhythms. To monitor cell-autonomous circadian rhythms of gene expression, luciferase reporters can be introduced into cells via transient transfection(13,16,17) or stable transduction(5,10,18,19). Here we describe a stable transduction protocol using lentivirus-mediated gene delivery. The lentiviral vector system is superior to traditional methods such as transient transfection and germline transmission because of its efficiency and versatility: it permits efficient delivery and stable integration into the host genome of both dividing and non-dividing cells(20). Once a reporter cell line is established, the dynamics of clock function can be examined through bioluminescence recording. We first describe the generation of P(Per2)-dLuc reporter lines, and then present data from this and other circadian reporters. In these assays, 3T3 mouse fibroblasts and U2OS human osteosarcoma cells are used as cellular models. We also discuss various ways of using these clock models in circadian studies. Methods described here can be applied to a great variety of cell types to study the cellular and molecular basis of circadian clocks, and may prove useful in tackling problems in other biological systems.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Circadian clocks sustain daily oscillations in gene expression, physiology, and behavior, relying on transcription-translation feedback loops of clock genes for rhythm generation. Cultured astrocytes display daily oscillations of extracellular ATP, suggesting that ATP release is a circadian output. We hypothesized that the circadian clock modulates ATP release via mechanisms that regulate acute ATP release from glia. To test the molecular basis for circadian ATP release, we developed methods to measure in real-time ATP release and Bmal1::dLuc circadian reporter expression in cortical astrocyte cultures from mice of different genotypes. Daily rhythms of gene expression required functional Clock and Bmal1, both Per1 and Per2, and both Cry1 and Cry2 genes. Similarly, high-level, circadian ATP release also required a functional clock mechanism. Whereas blocking IP(3) signaling significantly disrupted ATP rhythms with no effect on Bmal1::dLuc cycling, blocking vesicular release did not alter circadian ATP release or gene expression. We conclude that astrocytes depend on circadian clock genes and IP(3) signaling to express daily rhythms in ATP release.
Journal of Neuroscience 06/2011; 31(23):8342-50. · 6.91 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Direct evidence for the requirement of delay in feedback repression in the mammalian circadian clock has been elusive. Cryptochrome 1 (Cry1), an essential clock component, displays evening-time expression and serves as a strong repressor at morning-time elements (E box/E' box). In this study, we reveal that a combination of day-time elements (D box) within the Cry1-proximal promoter and night-time elements (RREs) within its intronic enhancer gives rise to evening-time expression. A synthetic composite promoter produced evening-time expression, which was further recapitulated by a simple phase-vector model. Of note, coordination of day-time with night-time elements can modulate the extent of phase delay. A genetic complementation assay in Cry1(-/-):Cry2(-/-) cells revealed that substantial delay of Cry1 expression is required to restore circadian rhythmicity, and its prolonged delay slows circadian oscillation. Taken together, our data suggest that phase delay in Cry1 transcription is required for mammalian clock function.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: During fasting, mammals maintain normal glucose homeostasis by stimulating hepatic gluconeogenesis. Elevations in circulating glucagon and epinephrine, two hormones that activate hepatic gluconeogenesis, trigger the cAMP-mediated phosphorylation of cAMP response element-binding protein (Creb) and dephosphorylation of the Creb-regulated transcription coactivator-2 (Crtc2)--two key transcriptional regulators of this process. Although the underlying mechanism is unclear, hepatic gluconeogenesis is also regulated by the circadian clock, which coordinates glucose metabolism with changes in the external environment. Circadian control of gene expression is achieved by two transcriptional activators, Clock and Bmal1, which stimulate cryptochrome (Cry1 and Cry2) and Period (Per1, Per2 and Per3) repressors that feed back on Clock-Bmal1 activity. Here we show that Creb activity during fasting is modulated by Cry1 and Cry2, which are rhythmically expressed in the liver. Cry1 expression was elevated during the night-day transition, when it reduced fasting gluconeogenic gene expression by blocking glucagon-mediated increases in intracellular cAMP concentrations and in the protein kinase A-mediated phosphorylation of Creb. In biochemical reconstitution studies, we found that Cry1 inhibited accumulation of cAMP in response to G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) activation but not to forskolin, a direct activator of adenyl cyclase. Cry proteins seemed to modulate GPCR activity directly through interaction with G(s)α. As hepatic overexpression of Cry1 lowered blood glucose concentrations and improved insulin sensitivity in insulin-resistant db/db mice, our results suggest that compounds that enhance cryptochrome activity may provide therapeutic benefit to individuals with type 2 diabetes.
Nature medicine 10/2010; 16(10):1152-6. · 27.14 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Bmal1 is an essential transcriptional activator within the mammalian circadian clock. We report here that the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of Bmal1-null mutant mice, unexpectedly, generates stochastic oscillations with periods that overlap the circadian range. Dissociated SCN neurons expressed fluctuating levels of PER2 detected by bioluminescence imaging but could not generate circadian oscillations intrinsically. Inhibition of intercellular communication or cyclic-AMP signaling in SCN slices, which provide a positive feed-forward signal to drive the intracellular negative feedback loop, abolished the stochastic oscillations. Propagation of this feed-forward signal between SCN neurons then promotes quasi-circadian oscillations that arise as an emergent property of the SCN network. Experimental analysis and mathematical modeling argue that both intercellular coupling and molecular noise are required for the stochastic rhythms, providing a novel biological example of noise-induced oscillations. The emergence of stochastic circadian oscillations from the SCN network in the absence of cell-autonomous circadian oscillatory function highlights a previously unrecognized level of circadian organization.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Two decades of research identified more than a dozen clock genes and defined a biochemical feedback mechanism of circadian oscillator function. To identify additional clock genes and modifiers, we conducted a genome-wide small interfering RNA screen in a human cellular clock model. Knockdown of nearly 1000 genes reduced rhythm amplitude. Potent effects on period length or increased amplitude were less frequent; we found hundreds of these and confirmed them in secondary screens. Characterization of a subset of these genes demonstrated a dosage-dependent effect on oscillator function. Protein interaction network analysis showed that dozens of gene products directly or indirectly associate with known clock components. Pathway analysis revealed these genes are overrepresented for components of insulin and hedgehog signaling, the cell cycle, and the folate metabolism. Coupled with data showing many of these pathways are clock regulated, we conclude the clock is interconnected with many aspects of cellular function.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Circadian timekeeping by intracellular molecular clocks is evident widely in prokaryotes and eukaryotes. The clockworks are driven by autoregulatory feedback loops that lead to oscillating levels of components whose maxima are in fixed phase relationships with one another. These phase relationships are the key metric characterizing the operation of the clocks. In this study, we built a mathematical model from the regulatory structure of the intracellular circadian clock in mice and identified its parameters using an iterative evolutionary strategy, with minimum cost achieved through conformance to phase separations seen in cell-autonomous oscillators. The model was evaluated against the experimentally observed cell-autonomous circadian phenotypes of gene knockouts, particularly retention of rhythmicity and changes in expression level of molecular clock components. These tests reveal excellent de novo predictive ability of the model. Furthermore, sensitivity analysis shows that these knockout phenotypes are robust to parameter perturbation.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 07/2009; 106(27):11107-12. · 9.74 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The circadian clock controls daily oscillations of gene expression at the cellular level. We report the development of a high-throughput circadian functional assay system that consists of luminescent reporter cells, screening automation, and a data analysis pipeline. We applied this system to further dissect the molecular mechanisms underlying the mammalian circadian clock using a chemical biology approach. We analyzed the effect of 1,280 pharmacologically active compounds with diverse structures on the circadian period length that is indicative of the core clock mechanism. Our screening paradigm identified many compounds previously known to change the circadian period or phase, demonstrating the validity of the assay system. Furthermore, we found that small molecule inhibitors of glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK-3) consistently caused a strong short period phenotype in contrast to the well-known period lengthening by lithium, another presumed GSK-3 inhibitor. siRNA-mediated knockdown of GSK-3beta also caused a short period, confirming the phenotype obtained with the small molecule inhibitors. These results clarify the role of GSK-3beta in the period regulation of the mammalian clockworks and highlight the effectiveness of chemical biology in exploring unidentified mechanisms of the circadian clock.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 01/2009; 105(52):20746-51. · 9.74 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The mammalian circadian clockwork is composed of a core PER/CRY feedback loop and additional interlocking loops. In particular, the ROR/REV/Bmal1 loop, consisting of ROR activators and REV-ERB repressors that regulate Bmal1 expression, is thought to "stabilize" core clock function. However, due to functional redundancy and pleiotropic effects of gene deletions, the role of the ROR/REV/Bmal1 loop has not been accurately defined. In this study, we examined cell-autonomous circadian oscillations using combined gene knockout and RNA interference and demonstrated that REV-ERBalpha and beta are functionally redundant and are required for rhythmic Bmal1 expression. In contrast, the RORs contribute to Bmal1 amplitude but are dispensable for Bmal1 rhythm. We provide direct in vivo genetic evidence that the REV-ERBs also participate in combinatorial regulation of Cry1 and Rorc expression, leading to their phase-delay relative to Rev-erbalpha. Thus, the REV-ERBs play a more prominent role than the RORs in the basic clock mechanism. The cellular genetic approach permitted testing of the robustness of the intracellular core clock function. We showed that cells deficient in both REV-ERBalpha and beta function, or those expressing constitutive BMAL1, were still able to generate and maintain normal Per2 rhythmicity. Our findings thus underscore the resilience of the intracellular clock mechanism and provide important insights into the transcriptional topologies underlying the circadian clock. Since REV-ERB function and Bmal1 mRNA/protein cycling are not necessary for basic clock function, we propose that the major role of the ROR/REV/Bmal1 loop and its constituents is to control rhythmic transcription of clock output genes.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Virtually all cells in the body have an intracellular clockwork based on a negative feedback mechanism. The circadian timekeeping system in mammals is a hierarchical multi-oscillator network, with the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) acting as the central pacemaker. The SCN synchronizes to daily light-dark cycles and coordinates rhythmic physiology and behavior. Synchronization in the SCN and at the organismal level is a key feature of the circadian clock system. In particular, intercellular coupling in the SCN synchronizes neuron oscillators and confers robustness against perturbations. Recent advances in our knowledge of and ability to manipulate circadian rhythms make available cell-based clock models, which lack strong coupling and are ideal for target discovery and chemical biology.
Nature Chemical Biology 11/2007; 3(10):630-9. · 12.95 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Molecular mechanisms of the mammalian circadian clock have been studied primarily by genetic perturbation and behavioral analysis. Here, we used bioluminescence imaging to monitor Per2 gene expression in tissues and cells from clock mutant mice. We discovered that Per1 and Cry1 are required for sustained rhythms in peripheral tissues and cells, and in neurons dissociated from the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN). Per2 is also required for sustained rhythms, whereas Cry2 and Per3 deficiencies cause only period length defects. However, oscillator network interactions in the SCN can compensate for Per1 or Cry1 deficiency, preserving sustained rhythmicity in mutant SCN slices and behavior. Thus, behavior does not necessarily reflect cell-autonomous clock phenotypes. Our studies reveal previously unappreciated requirements for Per1, Per2, and Cry1 in sustaining cellular circadian rhythmicity and demonstrate that SCN intercellular coupling is essential not only to synchronize component cellular oscillators but also for robustness against genetic perturbations.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Circadian (ca. 24 hr) oscillations in expression of mammalian "clock genes" are found not only in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), the central circadian pacemaker, but also in peripheral tissues. Under constant conditions in vitro, however, rhythms of peripheral tissue explants or immortalized cells damp partially or completely. It is unknown whether this reflects an inability of peripheral cells to sustain rhythms, as SCN neurons can, or a loss of synchrony among cells. Using bioluminescence imaging of Rat-1 fibroblasts transfected with a Bmal1::luc plasmid and primary fibroblasts dissociated from mPer2(Luciferase-SV40) knockin mice, we monitored single-cell circadian rhythms of clock gene expression for 1-2 weeks. We found that single fibroblasts can oscillate robustly and independently with undiminished amplitude and diverse circadian periods. Cells were partially synchronized by medium changes at the start of an experiment, but due to different intrinsic periods, their phases became randomly distributed after several days. Closely spaced cells in the same culture did not have similar phases, implying a lack of functional coupling among cells. Thus, like SCN neurons, single fibroblasts can function as independent circadian oscillators; however, lack of oscillator coupling in dissociated cell cultures leads to a loss of synchrony among individual cells and damping of the ensemble rhythm at the population level.
Current Biology 01/2005; 14(24):2289-95. · 9.49 Impact Factor