Diurnal and seasonal molecular rhythms in human neocortex and their relation to Alzheimer's disease

Nat Commun. 2017 Apr 3:8:14931. doi: 10.1038/ncomms14931.


Circadian and seasonal rhythms are seen in many species, modulate several aspects of human physiology, including brain functions such as mood and cognition, and influence many neurological and psychiatric illnesses. However, there are few data regarding the genome-scale molecular correlates underlying these rhythms, especially in the human brain. Here, we report widespread, site-specific and interrelated diurnal and seasonal rhythms of gene expression in the human brain, and show their relationship with parallel rhythms of epigenetic modification including histone acetylation, and DNA methylation. We also identify transcription factor-binding sites that may drive these effects. Further, we demonstrate that Alzheimer's disease pathology disrupts these rhythms. These data suggest that interrelated diurnal and seasonal epigenetic and transcriptional rhythms may be an important feature of human brain biology, and perhaps human biology more broadly, and that changes in such rhythms may be consequences of, or contributors to, diseases such as Alzheimer's disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / genetics*
  • Alzheimer Disease / physiopathology*
  • Binding Sites
  • CLOCK Proteins / genetics
  • CLOCK Proteins / metabolism
  • Circadian Rhythm / genetics*
  • DNA Methylation / genetics
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neocortex / physiopathology*
  • Seasons*
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA
  • Time Factors
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Transcriptome / genetics


  • Transcription Factors
  • CLOCK Proteins