Editors' ChoiceCircadian Rhythms

Can your diet change your clock?

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Science Translational Medicine  02 Dec 2020:
Vol. 12, Issue 572, eabf7520
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.abf7520


High-fat diets disturb circadian metabolic rhythms in the brain.

The circadian clock tunes the regulation of almost all systems in the human body to be in time with Earth’s day/night cycle and has long been known to play a particularly important role in the regulation of metabolism. Recently, research has shown that changes in dietary nutrient composition can time cellular clocks outside of the brain, called peripheral clocks, demonstrating plasticity in the clocks’ ability to entrain to environmental cues. In parallel, dietary nutrient composition has been shown to affect cognitive function and disease outcomes. However, little was known about how the brain’s master clock, the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), is affected by changes in metabolites.

To determine how nutritional changes regulate the SCN, Tognini et al. investigated the metabolic profile of both the SCN and the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) in mice that had been fed either a high-fat diet (HFD) or a normal diet. They paired these data with transcriptome analysis from the SCN and found that a HFD changed which metabolites were under the regulation of the circadian clock in a tissue-specific manner. They further found that these changes in metabolic oscillations coordinated with changes in the transcriptome.

As with all large-scale omics studies, a caveat to this work is that the changes in metabolite levels must be validated with more direct methods before we can truly understand how they affect the brain. However, these data give interesting insight into how the circadian clock in the brain responds to a common nutritional stress. As both the SCN and mPFC are important regions in the development of neurodegenerative disease and emotional disorders, the discovery of the effect of diet on these brain regions is likely to have lasting implications on our understanding of brain physiology in health and disease.

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