Running on time: the role of circadian clocks in the musculoskeletal system

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The night and day cycle governs the circadian (24 hourly) rhythm of activity and rest in animals and humans. This is reflected in daily changes of the global gene expression pattern and metabolism, but also in the local physiology of various tissues. A central clock in the brain co-ordinates the rhythmic locomotion behaviour, as well as synchronizing various local oscillators, such as those found in the musculoskeletal system. It has become increasingly recognized that the internal molecular clocks in cells allow a tissue to anticipate the rhythmic changes in their local environment and the specific demands of that tissue. Consequently, the majority of the rhythmic clock controlled genes and pathways are tissue specific. The concept of the tissue-specific function of circadian clocks is further supported by the diverse musculoskeletal phenotypes in mice with deletions or mutations of various core clock components, ranging from increased bone mass, dwarfism, arthropathy, reduced muscle strength and tendon calcification. The present review summarizes the current understanding of the circadian clocks in muscle, bone, cartilage and tendon tissues, with particular focus on the evidence of circadian rhythms in tissue physiology, their entrainment mechanisms and disease links, and the tissue-specific clock target genes/pathways. Research in this area holds strong potential to advance our understanding of how circadian rhythms control the health and disease of the musculoskeletal tissues, which has major implications in diseases associated with advancing age. It could also have potential implications in sports performance and sports medicine.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalBiochemical Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2014