Time after time: circadian clock regulation of intestinal stem cells

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2020 Apr;77(7):1267-1288. doi: 10.1007/s00018-019-03323-x. Epub 2019 Oct 4.


Daily fluctuations in animal physiology, known as circadian rhythms, are orchestrated by a conserved molecular timekeeper, known as the circadian clock. The circadian clock forms a transcription-translation feedback loop that has emerged as a central biological regulator of many 24-h processes. Early studies of the intestine discovered that many digestive functions have a daily rhythm and that intestinal cell production was similarly time-dependent. As genetic methods in model organisms have become available, it has become apparent that the circadian clock regulates many basic cellular functions, including growth, proliferation, and differentiation, as well as cell signalling and stem cell self-renewal. Recent connections between circadian rhythms and immune system function, and between circadian rhythms and microbiome dynamics, have also been revealed in the intestine. These processes are highly relevant in understanding intestinal stem cell biology. Here we describe the circadian clock regulation of intestinal stem cells primarily in two model organisms: Drosophila melanogaster and mice. Like all cells in the body, intestinal stem cells are subject to circadian timing, and both cell-intrinsic and cell-extrinsic circadian processes contribute to their function.

Keywords: Cell cycle; Cellular signalling; Digestive tract; Immunity; Stem cells.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Circadian Clocks*
  • Humans
  • Intestines / cytology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Signal Transduction
  • Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Time Factors