Disruption of circadian rhythm could lead to diabetes

Jul 13, 2010

Disruption of two genes that control circadian rhythms can lead to diabetes, a researcher at UT Southwestern Medical Center has found in an animal study.

Mice with defective copies of the genes, called CLOCK and BMAL1, develop abnormalities in that eventually render the cells unable to release sufficient amounts of insulin.

"These results indicate that disruption of the daily clock may contribute to diabetes by impairing the pancreas' ability to deliver insulin," said Dr. Joseph Takahashi, an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at UT Southwestern and co-senior author of the study, which appeared in the journal Nature. Dr. Takahashi, who recently joined UT Southwestern as chairman of neuroscience, performed the research with colleagues when he was at Northwestern University.

are cyclical patterns in biological activities, such as sleeping, eating, body temperature and hormone production.

The mammalian CLOCK gene, which Dr. Takahashi discovered in 1997, operates in many tissues of the body to regulate . The gene codes for a protein called a transcription factor, which binds to other genes and controls whether they become active. BMAL1 also codes for a transcription factor that works together with the CLOCK protein.

The researchers examined pancreatic islet beta cells, which secrete insulin when blood sugar levels increase. They genetically engineered some mice to have defective CLOCK genes and some to also lack the BMAL1 gene. The mice also were engineered to contain a bioluminescent molecule that allowed the researchers to detect the circadian clock in pancreatic cells as a fluctuating glow.

Normal glowed in a 24-hour rhythm, while cells with defective CLOCK genes showed nearly flat rhythms. Cells from different organs exhibited different circadian rhythm patterns, indicating that each organ controls its own internal clocks.

Further study showed that the islet cells in the mutant animals created normal amounts of insulin, but the CLOCK mutant cells were defective in releasing the hormone.

Mice with defective CLOCK genes were prone to obesity and other signs of metabolic syndrome and liver dysfunction. Young mice lacking the BMAL1 gene only in their pancreas, however, had normal body weight and composition, and their behavior followed normal circadian patterns, although their were abnormally high, the researchers found.

"This finding indicates that disruption of only in the pancreas, and not the rest of the body clock, can produce early signs of diabetes," Dr. Takahashi said "These studies are important because they show a direct link between the clock in pancreatic and glucose regulation. This should aid our understanding of the causes of glucose abnormalities."

Explore further: Dimly lit working environments: Correcting your body clock is possible

Related Stories

What makes the heart 'tick-tock'

Dec 02, 2008

Researchers have new evidence to show that the heart beats to its own drummer, according to a report in the December issue of the journal Cell Metabolism. They've uncovered some of the molecular circuitry within the cardio ...

Genetic link between body clocks and blood pressure

Aug 31, 2007

A region of DNA involved in the body’s inbuilt 24 hour cycle (the circadian rhythm) is also involved in controlling blood pressure, report scientists from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics (WTCHG) at the University ...

Mouse vision has a rhythm all its own

Aug 23, 2007

In the eyes of mammals, visual information is processed on a daily schedule set within the eyes themselves—not one dictated by the brain, according to a new report in the August 24 issue of the journal Cell, a publication of Cel ...

Circadian rhythm-metabolism link discovered

Jul 24, 2008

UC Irvine researchers have found a molecular link between circadian rhythms – our own body clock – and metabolism. The discovery reveals new possibilities for the treatment of diabetes, obesity and other ...

Recommended for you

Breakthrough in understanding of important blood protein

3 hours ago

The human body contains a unique protein that has the unusual property of destroying itself after a few hours of existence - it must therefore be continually recreated and is no stable protein. The protein, ...

Key to aging immune system is discovered

3 hours ago

There's a good reason people over 60 are not donor candidates for bone marrow transplantation. The immune system ages and weakens with time, making the elderly prone to life-threatening infection and other ...

Putting a number on pain

4 hours ago

"How much pain are you in?" It's a harder question than many people think. Tools for assessing patients' pain—be they children or adults—rely on perception: a subjective measure that eludes quantification ...

User comments : 0