Sex differences in circadian endocrine rhythms: Clinical implications

Eur J Neurosci. 2020 Jul;52(1):2575-2585. doi: 10.1111/ejn.14692. Epub 2020 Feb 28.


Organisms have developed a highly conserved and tightly regulated circadian system, to adjust their daily activities to day/night cycles. This system consists of a central clock, which is located in the hypothalamic suprachiasmatic nucleus, and the peripheral clocks that are ubiquitously expressed in all tissues. Both the central and peripheral clocks communicate with each other and achieve circadian oscillations of gene expression through transcriptional/translational loops mediated by clock transcription factors. It is worth mentioning that circadian non-transcriptional/non-translational rhythms also occur in non-nucleated cells. Interestingly, sex has been identified as an important factor influencing the activity of the circadian system. Indeed, several sex differences have been documented in the anatomy, physiology and pathophysiology that pertain to circadian rhythms. In this review, we present the historical milestones of understanding circadian rhythms, describe the central and peripheral components of the circadian clock system, discuss representative examples of sexual dimorphism of circadian rhythms, and present the most relevant clinical implications.

Keywords: circadian rhythms; circadian system; sex differences; sexual dimorphism.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Circadian Clocks*
  • Circadian Rhythm*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Suprachiasmatic Nucleus