Potential Circadian Rhythms in Oligodendrocytes? Working Together Through Time

Neurochem Res. 2020 Mar;45(3):591-605. doi: 10.1007/s11064-019-02778-5. Epub 2019 Mar 25.


Oligodendrocytes (OL) are the only myelinating cells of the central nervous system thus interferences, either environmental or genetic, with their maturation or function have devastating consequences. Albeit so far neglected, one of the less appreciated, nevertheless possible, regulators of OL maturation and function is the circadian cycle. Yet, disruptions in these rhythms are unfortunately becoming a common "disorder" in the today's world. The temporal patterning of behaviour and physiology is controlled by a circadian timing system based in the anterior hypothalamus. At the molecular level, circadian rhythms are generated by a transcriptional/translational feedback system that regulates transcription and has a major impact on cellular function(s). Fundamental cellular properties/functions in most cell types vary with the daily circadian cycle: OL are unlikely an exception! To be clear, the presence of circadian oscillators or the cell-specific function(s) of the circadian clock in OL has yet to be defined. Furthermore, we wish to entertain the idea of links between the "thin" evidence on OL intrinsic circadian rhythms and their interjection(s) at different stages of lineage progression as well as in supporting/regulating OL crucial function: myelination. Individuals with intellectual and developmental syndromes as well as neurodegenerative diseases present with a disrupted sleep/wake cycle; hence, we raise the possibility that these disturbances in timing can contribute to the loss of white matter observed in these disorders. Preclinical and clinical work in this area is needed for a better understanding of how circadian rhythms influence OL maturation and function(s), to aid the development of new therapeutic strategies and standards of care for these patients.

Keywords: Circadian rhythms; Myelination; Oligodendrocyte progenitors; Oligodendrocytes; Sleep.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Circadian Rhythm*
  • Humans
  • Oligodendroglia / metabolism*
  • Sleep / physiology*