The human circadian metabolome

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Feb 14;109(7):2625-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1114410109. Epub 2012 Jan 31.


The circadian clock orchestrates many aspects of human physiology, and disruption of this clock has been implicated in various pathologies, ranging from cancer to metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Although there is evidence that metabolism and the circadian clockwork are intimately linked on a transcriptional level, whether these effects are directly under clock control or are mediated by the rest-activity cycle and the timing of food intake is unclear. To answer this question, we conducted an unbiased screen in human subjects of the metabolome of blood plasma and saliva at different times of day. To minimize indirect effects, subjects were kept in a 40-h constant routine of enforced posture, constant dim light, hourly isocaloric meals, and sleep deprivation. Under these conditions, we found that ~15% of all identified metabolites in plasma and saliva were under circadian control, most notably fatty acids in plasma and amino acids in saliva. Our data suggest that there is a strong direct effect of the endogenous circadian clock on multiple human metabolic pathways that is independent of sleep or feeding. In addition, they identify multiple potential small-molecule biomarkers of human circadian phase and sleep pressure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Circadian Rhythm*
  • Humans
  • Light
  • Metabolome*
  • Saliva / metabolism