The Circadian Clock Gene BMAL1 Coordinates Intestinal Regeneration

Cell Mol Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2017 Apr 5;4(1):95-114. doi: 10.1016/j.jcmgh.2017.03.011. eCollection 2017 Jul.


Background & aims: The gastrointestinal syndrome is an illness of the intestine caused by high levels of radiation. It is characterized by extensive loss of epithelial tissue integrity, which initiates a regenerative response by intestinal stem and precursor cells. The intestine has 24-hour rhythms in many physiological functions that are believed to be outputs of the circadian clock: a molecular system that produces 24-hour rhythms in transcription/translation. Certain gastrointestinal illnesses are worsened when the circadian rhythms are disrupted, but the role of the circadian clock in gastrointestinal regeneration has not been studied.

Methods: We tested the timing of regeneration in the mouse intestine during the gastrointestinal syndrome. The role of the circadian clock was tested genetically using the BMAL1 loss of function mouse mutant in vivo, and in vitro using intestinal organoid culture.

Results: The proliferation of the intestinal epithelium follows a 24-hour rhythm during the gastrointestinal syndrome. The circadian clock runs in the intestinal epithelium during this pathologic state, and the loss of the core clock gene, BMAL1, disrupts both the circadian clock and rhythmic proliferation. Circadian activity in the intestine involves a rhythmic production of inflammatory cytokines and subsequent rhythmic activation of the JNK stress response pathway.

Conclusions: Our results show that a circadian rhythm in inflammation and regeneration occurs during the gastrointestinal syndrome. The study and treatment of radiation-induced illnesses, and other gastrointestinal illnesses, should consider 24-hour timing in physiology and pathology.

Keywords: Circadian Rhythms; Gastrointestinal Syndrome; Intestinal Stem Cells; Intestine; LD, light/dark; NFκB, nuclear factor κB; PBS, phosphate-buffered saline; TNF; TNF, tumor necrosis factor; ZT, Zeitgeber time; pHH3, phosphorylated histone H3; pJUN, phosphorylated c-JUN.