The intrinsic microglial clock system regulates interleukin-6 expression

Glia. 2017 Jan;65(1):198-208. doi: 10.1002/glia.23087. Epub 2016 Oct 11.


Similar to neurons, microglia have an intrinsic molecular clock. The master clock oscillator Bmal1 modulates interleukin-6 upregulation in microglial cells exposed to lipopolysaccharide. Bmal1 can play a role in microglial inflammatory responses. We previously demonstrated that gliotransmitter ATP induces transient expression of the clock gene Period1 via P2X7 purinergic receptors in cultured microglia. In this study, we further investigated mechanisms underlying the regulation of pro-inflammatory cytokine production by clock molecules in microglial cells. Several clock gene transcripts exhibited oscillatory diurnal rhythmicity in microglial BV-2 cells. Real-time luciferase monitoring also showed diurnal oscillatory luciferase activity in cultured microglia from Per1::Luciferase transgenic mice. Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) strongly induced the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines in BV-2 cells, whereas an siRNA targeting Brain and muscle aryl hydrocarbon receptor nuclear translocator-like protein 1 (Bmal1), a core positive component of the microglial molecular clock, selectively inhibited LPS-induced interleukin-6 (IL-6) expression. In addition, LPS-induced IL-6 expression was attenuated in microglia from Bmal1-deficient mice. This phenotype was recapitulated by pharmacological disruption of oscillatory diurnal rhythmicity using the synthetic Rev-Erb agonist SR9011. Promoter analysis of the Il6 gene revealed that Bmal1 is required for LPS-induced IL-6 expression in microglia. Mice conditionally Bmal1 deficient in cells expressing CD11b, including microglia, exhibited less potent upregulation of Il6 expression following middle cerebral artery occlusion compared with that in control mice, with a significant attenuation of neuronal damage. These results suggest that the intrinsic microglial clock modulates the inflammatory response, including the positive regulation of IL-6 expression in a particular pathological situation in the brain, GLIA 2016. GLIA 2017;65:198-208.

Keywords: Bmal1; IL-6; clock genes; microglia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation / genetics*
  • Interleukin-6 / genetics
  • Interleukin-6 / metabolism*
  • Lipopolysaccharides / pharmacology
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Microglia / drug effects
  • Microglia / metabolism*
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / genetics
  • Time Factors
  • Transcriptional Activation / drug effects*
  • Up-Regulation


  • Interleukin-6
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • interleukin-6, mouse