Circadian clocks: from stem cells to tissue homeostasis and regeneration


The circadian clock is an evolutionarily conserved timekeeper that adapts body physiology to diurnal cycles of around 24 h by influencing a wide variety of processes such as sleep-to-wake transitions, feeding and fasting patterns, body temperature, and hormone regulation. The molecular clock machinery comprises a pathway that is driven by rhythmic docking of the transcription factors BMAL1 and CLOCK on clock-controlled output genes, which results in tissue-specific oscillatory gene expression programs. Genetic as well as environmental perturbation of the circadian clock has been implicated in various diseases ranging from sleep to metabolic disorders and cancer development. Here, we review the origination of circadian rhythms in stem cells and their function in differentiated cells and organs. We describe how clocks influence stem cell maintenance and organ physiology, as well as how rhythmicity affects lineage commitment, tissue regeneration, and aging.

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