Monday 15 October 2018

System-wide communication regulates metabolism

A new study has identified the communication networks between organs and tissues. These regulate metabolism according to the rhythm of our biological clock. Research has shown that disruption of these rhythms can lead to illness.

Some ten years ago it was demonstrated for the first time that there is a link between our biorhythm (the circadian rhythm) and our metabolism; at that time researchers identified the metabolic pathways through which circadian proteins sense energy levels in cells. [1] 

As a follow-up to this study, scientists at the University of California, Irvine, identified the communication networks between organs and tissues. This resulted in a detailed ‘atlas’ that illustrates how the body creates and uses energy. They also investigated how disruptions of this communication can affect the health. The research was published in the journal Cell. [2]


Overview of connections

During the study, firstly the day-night rhythm of various tissues and organs was investigated, i.e. the blood serum, the liver, muscles, brown and white fat, prefrontal cortex and hypothalamus. This resulted in an overview (atlas) of the connections between these different organs and tissues, which together make up the biological clock, and govern system-wide the day-night patterns of metabolic activity. 


Effects of an unhealthy diet

The research team then tested in mice how a high-fat diet can disrupt this coordinated metabolism. Incidentally, no distinction was made between unsaturated, saturated, animal or plant fats. 

The researchers saw that the high-fat diet scrambled the body’s fine-tuned metabolic patterns and rewired the coordination and communication among the various biological clocks. They said that these disruptions can trigger inflammations, which in turn is linked to all sorts of diseases and can reduce life expectancy. [3]


Important tool

A researcher concludes that the effects of this unhealthy diet give evidence that external factors can disrupt the coordinated metabolic pattern. Lastly adding that, with this atlas, information from one organ or tissue group can provide a system-wide understanding of metabolic irregularities and illnesses related to them. 



[1] Paolo Sassone-Corsi et al, The NAD+-Dependent Deacetylase SIRT1 Modulates CLOCK-Mediated Chromatin Remodeling and Circadian Control, Cell (volume 134, issue 2, juli 2008).

[2] Paolo Sassone-Coris et al., Atlas of Circadian Metabolism Reveals System-wide Coordination and Communication between Clocks, Cell (volume 174, issue 6, september 2018). DOI: