Background: Many epidemiological studies revealed that shift work is associated with an increased risk of a number of pathologies, including cardiovascular diseases. An experimental model of shift work in rats has additionally been shown to recapitulate aspects of metabolic disorders observed in human shift workers, including increased fat content and impaired glucose tolerance, and used to demonstrate that restricting food consumption outside working hours prevents shift work-associated obesity and metabolic disturbance. However, the way distinct shift work parameters, such as type of work, quantity, and duration, affect cardiovascular function and the underlying mechanisms, remains poorly understood. Here, we used the rat as a model to characterize the effects of shift work in the heart and determine whether they can be modulated by restricting food intake during the normal active phase.
Results: We show that experimental shift work reprograms the heart cycling transcriptome independently of food consumption. While phases of rhythmic gene expression are distributed across the 24-h day in control rats, they are clustered towards discrete times in shift workers. Additionally, preventing food intake during shift work affects the expression level of hundreds of genes in the heart, including genes encoding components of the extracellular matrix and inflammatory markers found in transcriptional signatures associated with pressure overload and cardiac hypertrophy. Consistent with this, the heart of shift worker rats not eating during work hours, but having access to food outside of shift work, exhibits increased collagen 1 deposition and displays increased infiltration by immune cells. While maintaining food access during shift work has less effects on gene expression, genes found in transcriptional signatures of cardiac hypertrophy remain affected, and the heart of shift worker rats exhibits fibrosis without inflammation.
Conclusions: Together, our findings unraveled differential effects of food consumption on remodeled transcriptional profiles of the heart in shift worker rats. They also provide insights into how shift work affects cardiac function and suggest that some interventions aiming at mitigating metabolic disorders in shift workers may have adverse effects on cardiovascular diseases.
Keywords: Cardiac fibrosis; Cardiovascular diseases; Circadian rhythms; Heart; Inflammation; RNA-Seq; Shift work; Transcriptome.
© 2022. The Author(s).