The circadian clock gene Bmal1 acts as a potential anti-oncogene in pancreatic cancer by activating the p53 tumor suppressor pathway

Cancer Lett. 2016 Feb 28;371(2):314-25. doi: 10.1016/j.canlet.2015.12.002. Epub 2015 Dec 9.


Disruption of the circadian clock has been shown to be associated with tumor development. This study aimed to investigate the role of the core circadian gene Bmal1 in pancreatic cancer (PC). We first found that the levels of Bmal1 were downregulated in PC samples and were closely correlated with the clinicopathological features of patients. To dissect the underlying mechanism, we performed a RNA-seq assay followed by systematic gene function and pathway enrichment analyses. We detected an anti-apoptotic and pro-proliferative transcriptome profile after Bmal1 knockdown in PC cells. Further in vitro and in vivo studies confirmed that Bmal1 overexpression significantly inhibited cell proliferation and invasion and induced G2/M cell cycle arrest, whereas Bmal1 knockdown promoted PC growth, as demonstrated in Bmal1-manipulated AsPC-1 and BxPC-3 cell lines. Our mechanistic studies indicated that Bmal1 could directly bind to the p53 gene promoter and thereby transcriptionally activate the downstream tumor suppressor pathway in a p53-dependent manner. In sum, our findings suggest that Bmal1 acts as an anti-oncogene in PC and represents a potential biomarker for its diagnosis.

Keywords: Apoptosis; Bmal1; Cell cycle arrest; Circadian clock; P53; Pancreatic cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • ARNTL Transcription Factors / genetics
  • ARNTL Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Binding Sites
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Female
  • G2 Phase Cell Cycle Checkpoints
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice, Nude
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / genetics
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • RNA Interference
  • Signal Transduction
  • Time Factors
  • Transcriptional Activation
  • Transcriptome
  • Transfection
  • Tumor Burden
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / genetics
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism*


  • ARNTL Transcription Factors
  • ARNTL protein, human
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • TP53 protein, human
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53