Circadian rhythms, the molecular clock, and skeletal muscle

Curr Top Dev Biol. 2011;96:231-71. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-385940-2.00009-7.


Almost all organisms ranging from single cell bacteria to humans exhibit a variety of behavioral, physiological, and biochemical rhythms. In mammals, circadian rhythms control the timing of many physiological processes over a 24-h period, including sleep-wake cycles, body temperature, feeding, and hormone production. This body of research has led to defined characteristics of circadian rhythms based on period length, phase, and amplitude. Underlying circadian behaviors is a molecular clock mechanism found in most, if not all, cell types including skeletal muscle. The mammalian molecular clock is a complex of multiple oscillating networks that are regulated through transcriptional mechanisms, timed protein turnover, and input from small molecules. At this time, very little is known about circadian aspects of skeletal muscle function/metabolism but some progress has been made on understanding the molecular clock in skeletal muscle. The goal of this chapter is to provide the basic terminology and concepts of circadian rhythms with a more detailed review of the current state of knowledge of the molecular clock, with reference to what is known in skeletal muscle. Research has demonstrated that the molecular clock is active in skeletal muscles and that the muscle-specific transcription factor, MyoD, is a direct target of the molecular clock. Skeletal muscle of clock-compromised mice, Bmal1(-/-) and Clock(Δ19) mice, are weak and exhibit significant disruptions in expression of many genes required for adult muscle structure and metabolism. We suggest that the interaction between the molecular clock, MyoD, and metabolic factors, such as PGC-1, provide a potential system of feedback loops that may be critical for both maintenance and adaptation of skeletal muscle.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CLOCK Proteins / metabolism
  • Circadian Rhythm*
  • Humans
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational


  • CLOCK Proteins