The circadian clock regulates rhythmic erythropoietin expression in the murine kidney

Kidney Int. 2021 Nov;100(5):1071-1080. doi: 10.1016/j.kint.2021.07.012. Epub 2021 Jul 30.


Generation of circadian rhythms is cell-autonomous and relies on a transcription/translation feedback loop controlled by a family of circadian clock transcription factor activators including CLOCK, BMAL1 and repressors such as CRY1 and CRY2. The aim of the present study was to examine both the molecular mechanism and the hemopoietic implication of circadian erythropoietin expression. Mutant mice with homozygous deletion of the core circadian clock genes cryptochromes 1 and 2 (Cry-null) were used to elucidate circadian erythropoietin regulation. Wild-type control mice exhibited a significant difference in kidney erythropoietin mRNA expression between circadian times 06 and 18. In parallel, a significantly higher number of erythropoietin-producing cells in the kidney (by RNAscope®) and significantly higher levels of circulating erythropoietin protein (by ELISA) were detected at circadian time 18. Such changes were abolished in Cry-null mice and were independent from oxygen tension, oxygen saturation, or expression of hypoxia-inducible factor 2 alpha, indicating that circadian erythropoietin expression is transcriptionally regulated by CRY1 and CRY2. Reporter gene assays showed that the CLOCK/BMAL1 heterodimer activated an E-box element in the 5' erythropoietin promoter. RNAscope® in situ hybridization confirmed the presence of Bmal1 in erythropoietin-producing cells of the kidney. In Cry-null mice, a significantly reduced number of reticulocytes was found while erythrocyte numbers and hematocrit were unchanged. Thus, circadian erythropoietin regulation in the normoxic adult murine kidney is transcriptionally controlled by master circadian activators CLOCK/BMAL1, and repressors CRY1/CRY2. These findings may have implications for kidney physiology and disease, laboratory diagnostics, and anemia therapy.

Keywords: chronobiology; circadian rhythm; clock; cryptochrome; erythropoietin; hematopoiesis; hypoxia-inducible factor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • ARNTL Transcription Factors / genetics
  • ARNTL Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Animals
  • CLOCK Proteins / genetics
  • CLOCK Proteins / metabolism
  • Circadian Clocks* / genetics
  • Circadian Rhythm / genetics
  • Cryptochromes / genetics
  • Cryptochromes / metabolism
  • Erythropoietin*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Homozygote
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Sequence Deletion


  • ARNTL Transcription Factors
  • Cryptochromes
  • Erythropoietin
  • CLOCK Proteins