The circadian clock and liver function in health and disease

J Hepatol. 2019 Jul;71(1):200-211. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2019.03.020. Epub 2019 Mar 28.


Each day, all organisms are subjected to changes in light intensity because of the Earth's rotation around its own axis. To anticipate this geo-physical variability, and to appropriately respond biochemically, most species, including mammals, have evolved an approximate 24-hour endogenous timing mechanism known as the circadian clock (CC). The 'clock' is self-sustained, cell autonomous and present in every cell type. At the core of the clock resides the CC-oscillator, an exquisitely crafted transcriptional-translational feedback system. Remarkably, components of the CC-oscillator not only maintain daily rhythmicity of their own synthesis, but also generate temporal variability in the expression levels of numerous target genes through transcriptional, post-transcriptional and post-translational mechanisms, thus, ensuring proper chronological coordination in the functioning of cells, tissues and organs, including the liver. Indeed, a variety of physiologically critical hepatic functions and cellular processes are CC-controlled. Thus, it is not surprising that modern lifestyle factors (e.g. travel and jet lag, night and rotating shift work), which force 'circadian misalignment', have emerged as major contributors to global health problems including obesity, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and steatohepatitis. Herein, we provide an overview of the CC-dependent pathways which play critical roles in mediating several hepatic functions under physiological conditions, and whose deregulation is implicated in chronic liver diseases including non-alcoholic steatohepatitis and alcohol-related liver disease.

Keywords: ALD; Circadian clock; Hepatic metabolism; NAFLD; Transcriptional regulation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Circadian Clocks / physiology*
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Humans
  • Liver / physiology*
  • Liver Diseases / physiopathology*