Circadian deep sequencing reveals stress-response genes that adopt robust rhythmic expression during aging

Nat Commun. 2017 Feb 21;8:14529. doi: 10.1038/ncomms14529.


Disruption of the circadian clock, which directs rhythmic expression of numerous output genes, accelerates aging. To enquire how the circadian system protects aging organisms, here we compare circadian transcriptomes in heads of young and old Drosophila melanogaster. The core clock and most output genes remained robustly rhythmic in old flies, while others lost rhythmicity with age, resulting in constitutive over- or under-expression. Unexpectedly, we identify a subset of genes that adopted increased or de novo rhythmicity during aging, enriched for stress-response functions. These genes, termed late-life cyclers, were also rhythmically induced in young flies by constant exposure to exogenous oxidative stress, and this upregulation is CLOCK-dependent. We also identify age-onset rhythmicity in several putative primary piRNA transcripts overlapping antisense transposons. Our results suggest that, as organisms age, the circadian system shifts greater regulatory priority to the mitigation of accumulating cellular stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / genetics*
  • Aging / genetics*
  • Animals
  • Circadian Clocks / genetics
  • Circadian Rhythm / genetics*
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics*
  • Gene Ontology
  • Genes, Insect / genetics
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing / methods*
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Transcriptome*


  • Drosophila Proteins