A majority of mammalian genes exhibit daily fluctuations in expression levels, making circadian expression rhythms the largest known regulatory network in normal physiology. Cell-autonomous circadian clocks interact with daily light-dark and feeding-fasting cycles to generate approximately 24-hour oscillations in the function of thousands of genes. Circadian expression of secreted molecules and signaling components transmits timing information between cells and tissues. Such intra- and intercellular daily rhythms optimize physiology both by managing energy use and by temporally segregating incompatible processes. Experimental animal models and epidemiological data indicate that chronic circadian rhythm disruption increases the risk of metabolic diseases. Conversely, time-restricted feeding, which imposes daily cycles of feeding and fasting without caloric reduction, sustains robust diurnal rhythms and can alleviate metabolic diseases. These findings highlight an integrative role of circadian rhythms in physiology and offer a new perspective for treating chronic diseases in which metabolic disruption is a hallmark.
Copyright © 2016, American Association for the Advancement of Science.