Central and peripheral circadian clocks and their role in Alzheimer's disease

Dis Model Mech. 2017 Oct 1;10(10):1187-1199. doi: 10.1242/dmm.030627.


Molecular and cellular oscillations constitute an internal clock that tracks the time of day and permits organisms to optimize their behaviour and metabolism to suit the daily demands they face. The workings of this internal clock become impaired with age. In this review, we discuss whether such age-related impairments in the circadian clock interact with age-related neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease. Findings from mouse and fly models of Alzheimer's disease have accelerated our understanding of the interaction between neurodegeneration and circadian biology. These models show that neurodegeneration likely impairs circadian rhythms either by damaging the central clock or by blocking its communication with other brain areas and with peripheral tissues. The consequent sleep and metabolic deficits could enhance the susceptibility of the brain to further degenerative processes. Thus, circadian dysfunction might be both a cause and an effect of neurodegeneration. We also discuss the primary role of light in the entrainment of the central clock and describe important, alternative time signals, such as food, that play a role in entraining central and peripheral circadian clocks. Finally, we propose how these recent insights could inform efforts to develop novel therapeutic approaches to re-entrain arrhythmic individuals with neurodegenerative disease.

Keywords: Circadian biology; Clearance; Protein aggregation; Proteostasis; Sleep dysfunction.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aging / metabolism
  • Alzheimer Disease / genetics
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism*
  • Alzheimer Disease / physiopathology
  • Alzheimer Disease / psychology
  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Circadian Clocks* / genetics
  • Circadian Rhythm Signaling Peptides and Proteins / genetics
  • Circadian Rhythm Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism*
  • Circadian Rhythm* / genetics
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Humans
  • Nerve Degeneration
  • Plaque, Amyloid
  • Signal Transduction
  • Sleep


  • Circadian Rhythm Signaling Peptides and Proteins