Purpose of review: Previous studies have shown that a variety of specific renal functions exhibit circadian oscillations. This review aims to provide an update on the molecular mechanisms underlying circadian rhythms in the kidney, and to discuss how dysregulation of circadian rhythms can interfere with kidney function.
Recent findings: The molecular mechanism responsible for generating and maintaining circadian rhythms has been unraveled in great detail. This mechanism, known as the circadian clock, drives circadian oscillation in expression levels of a large number of renal mRNA transcripts. Several proteins critically involved in renal homeostatic functions have been shown to exhibit significant circadian oscillation in their expression levels or in their posttranslational modifications. In transgenic mouse models, disruption of circadian clock activity results in dramatic changes in the circadian pattern of urinary sodium and potassium excretion and causes significant changes in arterial blood pressure. A growing amount of evidence suggests that dysregulation of circadian rhythms is associated with the development of hypertension and accelerated progression of chronic kidney disease and cardiovascular disease in humans. Chronotherapy studies have shown that the efficacy of antihypertensive medication is greatly dependent on the circadian time of drug administration.
Summary: Recent research points to the major role of circadian rhythms in renal function and in control of blood pressure.