The Circadian Clock Regulates Metabolic Phenotype Rewiring Via HKDC1 and Modulates Tumor Progression and Drug Response in Colorectal Cancer

EBioMedicine. 2018 Jul;33:105-121. doi: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2018.07.002. Epub 2018 Jul 10.


An endogenous molecular clockwork drives various cellular pathways including metabolism and the cell cycle. Its dysregulation is able to prompt pathological phenotypes including cancer. Besides dramatic metabolic alterations, cancer cells display severe changes in the clock phenotype with likely consequences in tumor progression and treatment response. In this study, we use a comprehensive systems-driven approach to investigate the effect of clock disruption on metabolic pathways and its impact on drug response in a cellular model of colon cancer progression. We identified distinctive time-related transcriptomic and metabolic features of a primary tumor and its metastatic counterpart. A mapping of the expression data to a comprehensive genome-scale reconstruction of human metabolism allowed for the in-depth functional characterization of 24 h-oscillating transcripts and pointed to a clock-driven metabolic reprogramming in tumorigenesis. In particular, we identified a set of five clock-regulated glycolysis genes, ALDH3A2, ALDOC, HKDC1, PCK2, and PDHB with differential temporal expression patterns. These findings were validated in organoids and in primary fibroblasts isolated from normal colon and colon adenocarcinoma from the same patient. We further identified a reciprocal connection of HKDC1 to the clock in the primary tumor, which is lost in the metastatic cells. Interestingly, a disruption of the core-clock gene BMAL1 impacts on HKDC1 and leads to a time-dependent rewiring of metabolism, namely an increase in glycolytic activity, as well as changes in treatment response. This work provides novel evidence regarding the complex interplay between the circadian clock and metabolic alterations in carcinogenesis and identifies new connections between both systems with pivotal roles in cancer progression and response to therapy.

Keywords: Circadian clock; Circadian regulation of metabolism; Colorectal cancer; Glycolysis; High-throughput circadian data; Metabolic network reconstruction; Metabolic rewiring; Treatment response; Tumor progression.

MeSH terms

  • ARNTL Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Circadian Clocks*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Disease Progression
  • Fibroblasts / cytology
  • Fibroblasts / drug effects
  • Gene Regulatory Networks*
  • Hep G2 Cells
  • Hexokinase / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Hydroxybenzoates / pharmacology
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways / drug effects
  • Organoplatinum Compounds / pharmacology
  • Oxaliplatin


  • ARNTL Transcription Factors
  • ARNTL protein, human
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Hydroxybenzoates
  • Organoplatinum Compounds
  • WZB117
  • Oxaliplatin
  • HKDC1 protein, human
  • Hexokinase