Dysregulation of inflammatory responses by chronic circadian disruption

J Immunol. 2010 Nov 15;185(10):5796-805. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1001026. Epub 2010 Oct 13.


Circadian rhythms modulate nearly every mammalian physiological process. Chronic disruption of circadian timing in shift work or during chronic jet lag in animal models leads to a higher risk of several pathologies. Many of these conditions in both shift workers and experimental models share the common risk factor of inflammation. In this study, we show that experimentally induced circadian disruption altered innate immune responses. Endotoxemic shock induced by LPS was magnified, leading to hypothermia and death after four consecutive weekly 6-h phase advances of the light/dark schedule, with 89% mortality compared with 21% in unshifted control mice. This may be due to a heightened release of proinflammatory cytokines in response to LPS treatment in shifted animals. Isolated peritoneal macrophages harvested from shifted mice exhibited a similarly heightened response to LPS in vitro, indicating that these cells are a target for jet lag. Sleep deprivation and stress are known to alter immune function and are potential mediators of the effects we describe. However, polysomnographic recording in mice exposed to the shifting schedule revealed no sleep loss, and stress measures were not altered in shifted mice. In contrast, we observed altered or abolished rhythms in the expression of clock genes in the central clock, liver, thymus, and peritoneal macrophages in mice after chronic jet lag. We conclude that circadian disruption, but not sleep loss or stress, are associated with jet lag-related dysregulation of the innate immune system. Such immune changes might be a common mechanism for the myriad negative health effects of shift work.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Clocks / genetics*
  • Circadian Rhythm / immunology*
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Knock-In Techniques
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Jet Lag Syndrome / immunology*
  • Jet Lag Syndrome / metabolism
  • Macrophages, Peritoneal / immunology*
  • Macrophages, Peritoneal / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Polysomnography
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • Cytokines